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Umpire S Ravi could only afford a sheepish grin, but he could be in store for much worse. On the fifth ball of the third over of Delhi’s chase, substitute fielder Unmukt Chand hit the stumps from point while trying to prevent a single that the batsmen Dinesh Karthik and Kevin Pietersen attempted off James Faulkner.
A couple of Rajasthan Royals players appealed as the ball hit the stumps but Ravi waved them off. It wasn’t a convincing appeal by any means. In fact, the bowler and ‘keeper hardly seemed interested. Pietersen, who was running towards the danger end, looked confident that he had made his crease.
The television replays, though, revealed that the Delhi captain’s bat had gotten stuck in the mud a few centimetres short of the line when the bails went off. However, since Royals did not make a strong case and Ravi hadn’t referred it to the third-umpire, Pietersen, who was batting on 3, got a reprieve.
Coincidentally, this was the second time in as many weeks the Englishman got a lifeline in similar fashion, that too against the same opponents. In their previous encounter on May 3, Pietersen was on 2 when he wandered out of the crease after being hit on the pads, not realising the ball hadn’t gone too far.
Sanju Samson, the wicketkeeper, fired a direct hit by the time Pietersen turned back. Unlike Thursday, Royals made a strong appeal but umpire Sanjay Hazare chose not to refer it to the third umpire. Much to his embarrassment, replays showed Pietersen was a few inches short. The umpire was later stood down for the rest of the tournament.
Luckily for the Rajasthan side, Pietersen once again failed to make the most of his second life at the Motera. Five overs after his lucky escape, the England discard, batting on 13 (off 18 balls) tried to go over extra cover off Rajat Bhatia. But the ball came slow off the surface, stayed low, took the inside edge and dislodged the stumps.
If Delhi had any hopes of chasing down the mammoth target of 202 set by Royals, they needed a misfiring Pietersen to come to the party. However, once his stay in the middle ended, they crumpled like pack of cards.
Royals handed the Daredevils a 62-run defeat, their sixth in a row, to end their hopes of qualifying for the playoffs. At the same time, the huge margin of victory will not only boost Royals’ net run-rate but also put them in a very comfortable position to make the cut for the knockout stage.
While Delhi cut a sorry figure both in all aspects of the game, Rajasthan proved their title credentials yet again, conjuring a thoroughly professional display.
Anhcoring the Innings
On what seemed to be a two-paced pitch, Ajinkya Rahane (64) held up one end with a well-constructed half-century for the Royals, who were put in to bat by Pietersen. Steven Smith, who was captaining the side in the absence of the injured Shane Watson, had himself on the bench, nonetheless got his batting order right.
West Indian Kevon Cooper (32), sent in at one drop, and Samson (40), in at No. 4, scored at a healthy rate to ensure that the momentum from the quick start was not wasted.
The young wicket-keeper ensured the scoreboard kept ticking rapidly in the middle overs, before unleashing a flurry of sixes to provide an ideal finish. Royals suffered a minor blip towards the end after Imran Tahir claimed two wickets in the 18th over while giving away just two runs.
However, that odd good over aside, Royals scored 58 runs in four of the last five overs to go past 200 and virtually put the game to bed. Manoj Tiwary kept the Delhi chase going, but Rajasthan’s bowling unit had a collective good day at office — all seven bowlers used picked up a wicket or more in the comfortable win.