Sunrisers Hyderabad gave themselves a lead over Royal Challengers Bangalore in the race for the final spot in the IPL playoffs, with a comprehensive win over the troubled Rajasthan Royals, their sixth win out of seven home games. Both Sunrisers and Royal Challengers have a game left, but Sunrisers play the easier opposition in Kolkata Knight Riders. Royal Challengers go up against Chennai Super Kings in their last match. Royals, who have qualified for the playoffs but have also been rocked by an alleged spotfixing scandal, began the game needing a big win to give themselves a chance of finishing in the top two. For a long time they looked like they could do so, thanks largely to James Faulkner’s second five-for of the season – both against Sunrisers – but they let Sunrisers back in followed by an indifferent batting display in the chase of 137.
Royals will rue a seemingly innocuous moment in the sixth over. Sunrisers had gone against their winning formula of chasing at home and were in deep trouble when Biplab Samantray took two instinctive steps down the wicket and went back a little lazily. The ball had gone towards point, Ajinkya Rahane swooped in, and had actually run Samantray out. Except that nobody appealed. Had Rahane appealed, Sunrisers would have been reduced to 21 for 4. Instead Samantray – 8 off 12 then – went on to score his first IPL fifty, which took Sunrisers to a fighting total. With Darren Sammy, Samantray added 56 runs in 5.5 overs. Sammy scored 23 off 19. Sunrisers didn’t even manage a big push towards the end, because Faulkner came back to undo the rebuilding work, but Sunrisers’ bowlers have defended worse than 136. Their two big bowlers – Dale Steyn and Amit Mishra – set the tone of the defence. Steyn bowled fast, accurate and with swing, and conceded just four runs in his first two overs.
Royals had surprisingly still opened with Rahul Dravid and Ajinkya Rahane because they needed a huge-win-or-nothing approach: they couldn’t have missed out on the playoffs but needed a win and a big netrun- rate boost to compete for the top two slots. The pressure exerted by Steyn was too much on the openers, and Mishra didn’t let up at all. He returned the joint-most economical figures of this season: 4-0-8-2. In between, Rahane and Shane Watson holed out, effectively ending the chase. Mumbai and Super Kings now finish in the top two, and Royals await either Sunrisers or Royal Challengers in the eliminator.