IPL seasonWhat looked like a straightforward match for Rajasthan Royals for most part, turned into a late drama and ended in the last-ball finish at Dr YS Rajasekhara Reddy Cricket Stadium in Vishakhapatnam on Thursday. Rajasthan Royals had done everything right after winning the toss. They sent Sunrisers Hyderabad in and restricted them to 127, the lowest score in the current IPL season. With Shikhar Dhawan and David Warner taken out early, the SRH batting lost steam as their innings stuttered. They lasted all 20 overs but the RR bowlers did not allow any liberty to them. Dhawal Kulkarni and Praveen Tambe shared the four wickets that fell in the bowlers bag with Warner’s run out being the fifth of the innings. The chase of 128 also began well but after the 7th over, Ravi Bopara and Karn Sharma began weaving a band around the RR batsmen. Runs dried up suddenly and with 12 runs to be scored from the last 12 balls, the RR batsmen became nervy. Ajinkya Rahane was bowled by Trent Boult when Royals required just 10 from 9. When Praveen Kumar came on to bowl the last over, he produced two perfect yorkers, a near run-out, and a leg bye. The match reached the last ball with scores tied. It now depended on James Faulkner who got ready to face Praveen Kumar’s last ball of the match. To Sunrisers’s huge disappointment, Kumar’s ball was overpitched and Faulkner coolly dispatched it to the ropes. Rajasthan Royals scored their fourth win on the trot but not before they were gripped by a terrific anxiety in the closing stages.

Steven Smith won the toss and asked Sunrisers Hyderabad to bat first. Unlike their last match, Sunrisers’ start in this match was poor. Shikhar Dhawan just couldn’t get going in Tim Southee’s first over. He was beaten by the swing and flashed to yield an outside edge that fell just short of Smith at slip. But Dhawan didn’t last long as he edged Dhawal Kulkarni to be caught behind for 10 runs that came off 12 balls. On the other side, David Warner looked like continuing from his previous innings against RCB. Of the first four balls that he faced from Chris Morris, he struck three boundaries and lifted Southee for a big six. But Warner was run out in trying to steal a single. Lokesh Rahul set off for a single after the ball hit his pads but Warner was a tad slower even as Rahane hurled the ball from backward point. The direct hit shattered the stumps at the striker’s end with Warner quite far off. The fall of Warner at 35/2 became 35/3 with Dhawal Kulkarni claiming Lokesh Rahul with the first ball of his second over after taking Dhawan on the last ball of his first. Naman Ojha and Eoin Morgan kept going but could not lift the rate of scoring. After 10 overs, SRH could only reach 55/3. Later, when Smith brought Pravin Tambe from one end, runs almost dried up. The wily leg spinner foxed the batmen with some accurate bowling and claimed the wickets of both Ojha and Morgan. In his quota of 4 overs, Tambe yielded just 21 runs. Despite Bopara and Ashish Reddy going for some big hits in the slog overs, SRH could only reach 127/5 in 20 overs.

Scoring 128 for victory was not so difficult for the Royals as openers Ajinkya Rahane and Sanju Samson set about building the chase but the pace of scoring was slow because of the inherent nature of the Visakhapatnam pitch. After adding 64 for the first wicket, Samson departed. Ravi Bopara delivered the breakthrough by luring the batsman into opening the face of his bat to a drive through the vacant slip. Instead, he got a nick and Naman Ojha plucked out a smart one-handed catch. Skipper Smith didn’t last long as he was deceived by Karn Sharma’s flight and holed out to Warner in the deep. Even after Karun Nair fell in the 15th over, RR still looked like ending up as winners with just 36 required off 32 balls. But Karn Sharma and Ravi Bopara made scoring difficult for RR as the innings progressed. Somehow, things turned sour for the Royals in the last two overs. When Rahane got out in the 19th over, SRH smelt their chance. They made field changes and pressurized the RR batsmen. Stuart Binny and James Faulkner couldn’t score as freely as they wanted. Praveen Kumar’s last over took the game on the razor’s edge. He was thrifty and almost succeeded in engineering a run-out. But RR finally scored their fourth successive IPL victory off the very last ball with Faulkner hitting Praveen Kumar for four.