Rahane and Vishwanadh guide the team home with four balls to spare

In a city where forts are a major tourist attraction, an open fortress stands out distinctly.

The Sawai Mansingh Stadium (SMS), with its uncovered stands, is slowly acquiring a status of its own, thanks to Rajasthan Royals. The city-based franchise, after defeating Kings XI Punjab by six wickets on Sunday, has now won both its home games here. In fact, when Royals won the IPL in 2008, it reached the semifinals on the back of a 100 per cent success record at the SMS.

This time, Rahul Dravid’s side is reaping the benefits of a track which assists its merry band of quick bowlers: S. Sreesanth’s swing, the pace of left-armer James Faulkner and the express speed of Shaun Tait, and Siddharth Trivedi and Kevon Cooper’s subtle change of pace have all been rewarded.

Though Tait couldn’t make the starting XI on Sunday, the rest were in attendance to dismantle Kings for a meagre 124.

Sreesanth strikes early

Sreesanth, largely bowling outswingers at a good length, rocked the opposition early by removing openers Mandeep Singh and Adam Gilchrist in the second over. Manan Vohra was run out soon after by Faulkner’s direct hit, leaving the visitors reeling at 10 for three.

Being part of a consistently underperforming Punjab side, David Hussey is a seasoned warrior in adverse situations and he played his role to perfection, scoring 41 off 31 balls.

Gurkeerat Singh and Rajagopal Sathish assisted the Australian for a brief while before being caught behind off Trivedi and Faulkner respectively. The slower delivery caused much damage to Kings’ progress with Hussey too succumbing to it, becoming the sixth victim at 75 off Trivedi’s bowling in the 13th over. A late charge by Azhar Mahmood and Praveen Kumar guided the team to 124, a total which could have troubled a slightly fragile Royals batting line-up.

Watson on fire

Shane Watson, however, launched a stunning onslaught on Ryan Harris at the beginning, hitting five fours in the latter’s first two overs. However, the opener’s dismissal slowed down the host’s progress. At 79 for four in 12.5 overs, Dravid’s team found itself in a nervous situation and it required a strong display of equanimity from Ajinkya Rahane and debutant Sanju Vishwanadh to take the team home with four balls to spare.

Wicket-keeper Vishwanadh was included in the side after Dishant Yagnik failed to recover from injury and impressed by taking a breathtaking catch to remove Sathish.

The Kerala cricketer’s calm performance won him many admirers and he may prove to be one of the answers to Royals’ problems in the middle-order.

Scoreboard:

Kings XI Punjab: Mandeep Singh c Binny b Sreesanth 2 (8b), Adam Gilchrist c Trivedi b Sreesanth 0 (2b), Manan Vohra (run out) 3 (6b), David Hussey c Dravid b Trivedi 41 (31b, 4x4, 1x6), Gurkeerat Singh c Vishwanadh b Trivedi 10 (15b, 1x4), Rajagopal Sathish c Vishwanadh b Faulkner 11 (12b, 2x4), Azhar Mahmood b Cooper 23 (20b, 3x4), Piyush Chawla c Rahane b Cooper 7 (9b), Ryan Harris (not out) 2 (3b), Praveen Kumar (run out) 15 (7b, 2x4, 1x6), Parvinder Awana c Vishwanadh b Faulkner 0 (1b); Extras (lb-2, w-7, nb-1): 10; Total (in 18.5 overs): 124.

Fall of wickets: 1-5 (Gilchrist), 2-8 (Mandeep), 3-10 (Vohra), 4-45 (Gurkeerat), 5-67 (Sathish), 6-75 (Hussey), 7-92 (Chawla), 8-104 (Mahmood), 9-124 (Praveen).

Rajasthan Royals bowling: Chandila 3-0-14-0, Sreesanth 4-1-20-2, Cooper 3-0-33-2, Faulkner 3.5-0-30-2, Trivedi 4-0-21-2, Binny 1-0-4-0.

Rajasthan Royals: Shane Watson c Mandeep b Awana 32 (19b, 7x4), Ajinkya Rahane (not out) 34 (42b, 3x4), Rahul Dravid c Gilchrist b Praveen 9 (12b, 2x4), Stuart Binny c Gilchrist b Praveen 0 (4b), Brad Hodge lbw b Chawla 15 (16b, 2x4), Sanju Vishwanadh (not out) 27 (23b, 3x4); Extras (lb-6, w-3): 9; Total (for four wkts. in 19.2 overs): 126.

Fall of wickets: 1-43 (Watson), 2-58 (Dravid), 3-58 (Binny), 4-79 (Hodge).

Kings XI Punjab bowling: Praveen 4-1-10-2, Harris 4-0-30-0, Awana 4-0-35-1, Mahmood 4-0-23-0, Chawla 3.2-0-22-1.

Man-of-the-match: J. Faulkner.

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