Rahul Dravid, leading Rajasthan Royals in its fourth match in three venues within a week, once again underlined the virtues of meticulous planning and execution as the tourists posted a clinical eight-wicket victory over Kings XI Punjab with an over to spare in the Pepsi-IPL-VI match here on Thursday.
From selecting the final XI, including four changes, to marshalling his resources well in testing conditions, Dravid performed like a skilful architect completing a tricky project.
Thanks to its ninth win, RR, with 18 points, strengthened its position for a berth in the play-off.
After being asked to bat first at the PCA Stadium here, KXIP tried to get a grip over the game. Following Mandeep Singh’s early fall, Adam Gilchrist, who made a comeback after three matches, and Shaun Marsh looked determined to beat the energy-sapping weather.
Gilchrist hooked and smashed S. Sreesanth to the boundary off back-to-back deliveries and Marsh used his feet well against a stingy Ajit Chandila to slam a six and a four over the bowler’s head.
Marsh (77 off 64 balls) played a delectable shot to the fine-leg boundary to reach his second half-century of the season. The two Aussies posted a century partnership in 70 balls before Gilchrist (42 off 32 balls), unable to read a slower ball, provided a return catch to Kevon Cooper. Led by the clever Cooper, RR seized the opportunity and applied the brakes on the KXIP batsmen. Cooper employed his slower balls to good effect to get rid of the well-set Marsh, dropped by Dravid at 72, and the dangerous David Miller within the space of two balls. The host managed just 41 runs for the loss of four wickets off the final six overs.
Steadying the ship
In the second over of RR’s chase, Bipul Sharma was thrilled to breach the famous defence of Dravid. However, Ajinkya Rahane and Shane Watson displayed patience to steady the visitor’s ship.
Rahane (59 off 49) showed keenness in running between the wickets and was also adept at hammering the ball through the open spaces, to proceed at a decent pace.
Watson used his power to hammer a few boundaries, and a six on the off-side. He added 66 valuable runs with Rahane before being bowled by Piyush Chawla in the 10th over.
Rahane, batting flawlessly, registered his third half-century on the trot and forged an unbeaten 76-run partnership with the flamboyant Sanju Vishwanadh (47 off 33) to ensure RR’s third consecutive win.