Rajasthan Royals beaten by 23 runs in their final regular-season game.
IPL: Win keeps Sunrisers Hyderabad's qualification hopes alive
HYDERABAD // This match was a test of character in two different ways. Rajasthan Royals had the challenge of putting behind them the spot-fixing controversy, while Sunrisers Hyderabad, coming in on the back of a deflating seven-wicket loss to Mumbai Indians, knew they desperately needed a win to keep alive their hopes of an IPL play-off berth.
In the end, Hyderabad, who won by 23 runs to register their ninth win in the competition, ensured they were on track to achieve that, and also dealt another blow to Rajasthan, who will now have to play the eliminator between the third and fourth-placed teams in New Delhi on May 22.
Rajasthan, who ended on 113 for nine chasing 137, looked spirited on the field, but were not quite able to cash in despite reducing Hyderabad to five for three in 2.4 overs. That it was a sluggish pitch was not hard to fathom when a couple of deliveries early on went to the wicketkeeper on the second bounce, but Hyderabad made life difficult for themselves by losing a cluster of wickets. That meant the batsmen to follow had to go into damage-control mode.
Biplab Samantray, the Odisha batsman, who rode his luck early on to register a maiden IPL half-century, played that role to perfection. He was the beneficiary of some generosity from Rajasthan, who did not appeal after effecting a run-out when he made just eight.
Hanuma Vihari (19) lent valuable support, but Darren Sammy (23 off 19 balls) and Thisara Perera (17 not out) applied the finishing touches as Hyderabad smashed 88 off the last 10 overs.
In reply, Rahul Dravid (25) and Ajinkya Rahane (12) put on 39 to lay the foundation for the middle order. But this time around, they were consumed by the pressure of the asking rate on a pitch that did not exactly suit stroke-making.
Perera, who conceded 55 off his four overs in the previous game against Mumbai, roared back in fine fashion, picking up the crucial wickets of Shane Watson and Stuart Binny to virtually kill the game.
The loss meant that James Faulkner's second five-wicket haul of the season went in vain. It was an incisive and accurate spell on a pitch that suited his style, and he took his tournament-leading tally to 26 wickets. But having lifted themselves after the dire news of the previous 48 hours, Rajasthan found the finishing line too far away.
Shashank Kishore is a subeditor at Wisden India.
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