Arun Gopalakrishnan in Mumbai
Match Report: M18 – Rajasthan Royals vs Otago Volts
Shukla, Rahane, Hodge help RR maintain perfect record
After holding the visitors down to a modest 139, the Royals were off to a brisk start with Rahane and Rahul Dravid adding 49 runs in 6.3 overs. The partnership was broken when Dravid attempted to square-cut the left-arm spinner Nick Beard, but was brilliantly caught by Nathan McCullum at point.
The Volts bowlers continued to make inroads into the Royals batting line-up despite Rahane playing a fluent innings at one end. Sanju Samson was second to go when he dragged one from Jimmy Neesham onto his stumps attempting to dab one down to thirdman. Shane Watson and Stuart Binny perished in the space of four deliveries when they reached out to play through the off-side and ended up edging to the wicketkeeper.
After the flurry of wickets, Rahane found an able ally in the experienced Brad Hodge. The pair steadied the innings with a 44-run partnership, with Hodge playing the enforcer. After bringing up his half-century in the fifteenth over, Rahane attempted to hit Neesham over the top but mistimed one and holed out to the man at mid-off; he made 52 from 48 balls.
There was a minor scare for the Royals as James Faulkner attempted to go for glory but had his stumps uprooted. However, the experienced Hodge ensured the Royals maintained their unbeaten record at home. Despite the required run-rate breaching the 10-run mark at one point, Hodge maintained his calm and brought all his experience to the fore. He hit five boundaries and three sixes in his 23-ball 52 and helped his team past the finish line with five balls remaining. Kevon Cooper, who picked up two boundaries, kept him company at the end.
Neesham was the pick of the bowlers for the Volts, returning with figures of 3/22, while Nick Beard and Neil Wagner picked up one wicket and two wickets respectively.
Earlier in the evening, Royals’ skipper Rahul Dravid won the toss and put the Volts in. It was an inspired selection to include Rahul Shukla in the Royals’ XI, in place of Vikramjeet Malik. And the 23-year-old justified his inclusion by breaking the backbone of the Volts batting line-up.
Introduced into the attack in the fourth over, Shukla found his way through Hamish Rutherford’s defence and had his stumps rearranged with his first delivery. Two balls later, he got one to skid off the surface, jag back and rap the dangerous Brendon McCullum in front of the stumps. Two balls later, he deceived Derek de Boorder with a short delivery, found the top edge of his bat and gleefully accepted the return catch.
Shane Watson then struck a blow when he had Neil Broom top-edging a pull to be caught by the wicketkeeper. At 21 for four, the Otago Volts were in all kinds of trouble, before Ryan ten Doeschate and Jimmy Neesham revived the innings with a 53-run stand. Neesham was the more enterprising of the two batsmen, hitting four boundaries and a six before he was dismissed for 32. ten Doeschate fell soon after when he failed to pick a flipper by Pravin Tambe and was caught plumb in front of the stumps; he made 26 at from 27 balls.
Cameos Nathan McCullum (28 from 20 balls) and Ian Butler (25 from 18 balls) in the final quarter of the innings helped the Otago Volts finish their 20 overs at a competitive 139/7.
For the Royals, Shukla was the pick of the bowlers, returning with figures of three for 23 from his four overs (which included a maiden over too). The 42-year-old Tambe, who was athletic on the field, impressed with the ball too, finishing with figures of one for 17 from his four overs. Kevon Cooper (2/33) and Shane Watson (1/24) too chipped in.
Trivia: James Faulkner and Rahul Shukla were both clocked bowled in excess of 140 kph. Faulkner’s fastest delivery was recorded at 142.2 kph, while Shukla’s quickest delivery was 140.2 kph.
Man of the Match: Rahul Shukla for his three-wicket haul