New Delhi: Brad Hodge showed how important a player he is in the shorter version of the game as his counter-attacking half-century helped Rajasthan Royals eke out a four-wicket victory over Sunrisers Hyderabad at the Feroz Shah Kotla here on Wednesday.
When Hodge came to the wicket, Rajasthan were tottering at 57 for 5 in 10 overs chasing 133. And while rest of the batsmen from both sides were unable to adjust to the slowness of the pitch, Hodge not only played with relative ease but also translated his innings into a match-winning knock. He ended the game with two consecutive sixes off Darren Sammy, remaining unbeaten on 54 off just 29 balls. Rajasthan will now play Mumbai Indians in the second Qualifier on Friday to book their date with Chennai Super Kings for Sunday's final.
The pitch used for Wednesday's encounter was much slower than that in the first Qualifier at the same venue on Tuesday, which Parthiv Patel (1) found out when he mistimed a length delivery from Vikramjeet Malik and was caught in the offside. Malik, who was drafted into the side for Pravin Tambe, struck again when he had Hanuma Vihari (1) caught at mid-on attempting an expensive pull.
It was time to consolidate and both Shikhar Dhawan (33) and Cameron White (31) had to mould their natural game. Dhawan hit his and the team's first boundary with a simple push to the wide of mid-off; White also made a conscious effort to play everything along the ground. With Rajasthan's bowlers using the slowness of the pitch fully, the two batsmen kept up their measured approach as Hyderabad made just 48 in 10 overs. White went after Siddharth Trivedi, swiping him for four through square leg, but perished while trying a hoick off the next delivery, mistiming it and easily getting caught at mid-off.
Rajasthan had complete control over the proceedings until Sammy (29) dispatched Shane Watson over midwicket for six. Dhawan tried hard but could not get his innings going and his sluggish knock ended he scooped James Faulkner straight to Trivedi at short fine leg.
That brought together two of the strongest hitters in this format. While Sammy had got going with a six, Thisara Perera (11) took just one delivery to hit a four. When it looked that the two would take Hyderabad to a challenging score, they departed in the 18th over of the innings. Sammy was the victim of a terrific throw from the deep by substitute Rahul Shukla and Perera was caught behind off Watson. The remaining batsmen did just enough to take the side to a decent score.
Rahul Dravid (12) started Rajasthan's chase with three spanking shots towards midwicket - a pull towards midwicket followed by two drives. But when he was looking for a big knock, Ishant Sharma induced him into a false stroke, inducing a leading edge which went to Karan Sharma at backward point. Watson (24) looked the best batsman in form from the outset, cracking one through the covers and clipping the other through fine leg for fours off Ishant whose line and length both went from bad to worse. Ajinkya Rahane (18) played a crisp, flat six off him, while Watson smacked him for two more boundaries.
Looking to attack Karan Sharma, Watson was caught at the midwicket boundary by Sammy, who jumped in the air to pluck a superb catch. Next to go was Dishant Yagnik (0) who failed to gauge the situation and went for a wild swipe, getting bowled by Sammy. Things went from bad to worse for Rajasthan as the well-set Rahane and Stuart Binny departed in back-to-back overs.
Rajasthan needed 76 from 60 balls when Hodge joined Sanju Samson (10) at the crease. From then on, the two batsmen played contrasting cricket. While Hodge went for an all out attack, Samson gave the strike to his senior pro regularly. White erred by giving one too many overs to the legspinners and Hodge smashed two big sixes and four off Karan Sharma's second over and hit Mishra for another in the next over.
With Rajasthan needing just 42 off the last six overs, White brought in Dale Steyn and the fast bowler struck immediately, trapping Samson leg before. But Hodge kept his cool till the end to drive Rajasthan to a thrilling win.
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