The Australian’s superb 54 keeps his side in the competition

Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH), masters at choking the opposition, met its match in Rajasthan Royals at the Ferozeshah Kotla on Wednesday night.

Exorcising the ghosts of the spot fixing scandal that devastated its camp, Royals once again rode their self-belief to stay in the tournament, winning its Indian Premier League eliminator against Sunrisers Hyderabad by four wickets, thanks to a sterling innings — a true game changer under the circumstances — from Brad Hodge.

An inspiring show by Darren Sammy, with his infectious energy sweeping the opposition off its feet, was the dominating factor in this low-scoring contest on a pitch that lacked the character much needed in this format.

All credit to Sammy for putting up a splendid fight. He made runs, took a sensational catch on the boundary and then bowled with imagination to raise SRH’s hopes.

A pity he erred in the final over when Royals needed ten to win. Two sixes by Hodge ended the contest.

The target of 133 was achievable even if the pitch offered resistance.

An imperious Rahul Dravid belting Dale Steyn in the innings’ first over set the tempo for Royals. The chase stuttered but recovery came through Shane Watson, who adapted well to the low and slow surface.

There was much to contend with as SRH rotated the attack and struck regularly to keep the batsmen under pressure.

Batting under mounting pressure, Hodge, with Sanju Vishwanadh and James Faulkner for company, hit sixes when they mattered just when SRH appeared to get on top. Hodge made the difference; he hardly showed signs of strain as he set up a famous win for a team that had reasons to smile after the recent troubles.

Adaptability was always going to be a critical factor on this pitch, and SRH did not have an alternative plan against an attack that executed its role exemplarily.

The pitch was a challenge, with the ball stopping, and Royals was relentless in stifling the stroke-making ambitions of SRH. Shikhar Dhawan would struggle to recall a slower pitch at his home ground.

SRH once again relied on its pace attack. That Rahul Dravid’s team was a determined lot became evident from the discipline that marked the performance, an athletic field backing a nagging attack.

Dhawan struggled. He produced a flourishing cover drive, stepping out to the bowler, and then played from the crease as the wicketkeeper stood up.

The bowlers stuck to a niggling length, daring the batsmen, but run-making remained a demanding exercise since SRH could not innovate.

The decision to bat first indicated a new approach from SRH. The move did not work. Parthiv Patel and Hanuma Vihari failed to read Vikramjit Malik, a decent seamer in the conditions.

Malik mixed his deliveries and made a lasting impact on the course of the match. His strikes compelled SRH to adopt a cautious approach, but the team never achieved its potential.

A score of 48 for two was an ominous sign for SRH. With Dhawan and Cameron White in the middle, a revival was not ruled out.

But Siddharth Trivedi and Kevon Cooper bowled two superb overs each to leave the batting side frustrated.

SRH’s first 10-run over came in the 15th when Watson was punished by Sammy.

The most productive over for SRH was courtesy Sammy again. The West Indian took 16 runs off an over from Cooper.

It was the best phase for a team that gave its bowlers only 132 to play with.

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