The Rajasthan Royals, colloquially and affectionately known in Australia as Warnie’s Mob, defeated the much vaunted yet underperforming Kolkata Knight Riders in what became a testy and spiteful match at Sawai Mansingh Stadium in Jaipur by 45 runs last night.
It was the fourth match won in succession by Rajasthan and it was even more impressive than previous victories when you consider that their two best performing batsman, Graeme Smith and Shane Watson, only contributed a measly two runs to their competitive total of 196/7.
Smith was cleaned bowled failing in an adventurous contemptuous hoik against Ishant Sharma while Watson was adjudged lbw first ball to a delivery that was glanced from the middle of the bat onto boot and then to fine leg boundary. It was probably the worst decision of the tournament yet a bemused Watson accepted the decision without remonstration.
Warne, never one to rest on his laurels, produced a surprise selection in the slight opening batsman Swapnil Asnodkar. He appeared unflummoxed by the reputations of Kolkata bowlers and was particularly severe on Ajit Agarkar carting him for four fours and a beautifully struck six over long on. After he was dismissed for 60 by Umar Gul in the twelfth over the consistent Yusuf Pathan took up the reins and methodically hit the bad ball to the boundary while rotating the strike throughout in compiling 55 from 33 balls.
Ten an over is a difficult task batting second and when Salman Butt, the promoted Agarkar and Brad Hodge were back in the shed before the initial fielding restrictions were lifted the responsibility fell to Ganguly and David Hussey to rebuild while continuing the chase. Some tight middle overs by Munaf Patel and Siddharth Trivedi saw the rate climb to almost 12 by the halfway mark and with the pressure mounting Warne took the ball and marked out his run-up.
His first over was tight only leaking seven but as he was warming up for his next an incident occurred that swung the match heavily in his favour.
Sourav Ganguly was caught cleanly by a low diving Graeme Smith deep in the outfield and while Smith’s team-mates sprinted from all corners of the ground to congratulate him Ganguly, now at the non-striker’s end, began complaining to the umpire about the dismissal’s legality. This is clearly against the rules and also unfairly calls into question the integrity of the South African skipper. Umpire Pratap Kumar relented and referred the dismissal to the third umpire against square-leg umpire Rudi Koertzen’s advice. After two dozen replays where the commentators all agreed it was out the third umpire decided otherwise. It was a curious decision that turned the match sour and Ganguly should be held responsible. His identical actions sparked the animosity on the final day of the Sydney Test and like last night emboldened and stiffened the opposition’s will to win.
Warne was most displeased but kept his cool and as he passed Ganguly on his way to his mark he was overheard on the stump microphone saying, “Justice will catch up with you one day, Sourav”. Warne’s next series of deliveries were to David Hussey who promptly hit two boundaries and a single and with his next ball to Ganguly Warne’s prophecy was fulfilled. He tossed up a loopy over-spinner that dipped suddenly causing Ganguly to hit it straight to Mohammad Kaif at deep mid-off. The elated fieldsman held both arms aloft in triumph, index fingers pointed to the heavens as the whoops of joy and derision followed Ganguly to the dressing sheds. It was an instant karma moment and Kolkata never recovered. Such was the spirit and momentum created by Ganguly’s indiscretion that Rajasthan annihilated Kolkata thereafter taking the final 6 wickets for only 32 runs.
The team spirit at Rajasthan is a testament to Warne’s belief in himself and those around him. He is the greatest cricketer of his generation and history will record his name alongside WG Grace, Sir Donald Bradman and Sir Garfield Sobers as a unique player beyond compare. Every player in his team is playing above expectation and to see the young Indians and the usually dour South African captain playing fiercely with a disciplined joy is a further testament to his influence on all who express their cricket in his company.
An interesting sidelight in yesterday’s battle in Jaipur was the appearance on the bench of Dimi Mascarenhas. He was looking extremely fit and content and the eloquent and knowledgeable Caribbean commentator Tony Cozier produced a remarkable interview with the England limited-overs representative.
Dimi responded to Tony’s introduction with a natural “G’Day Mate” and when asked his thoughts on being the only England player in the IPL he responded with a chuckle, “I’m travelling on my original passport, mate. The structure here under Shane Warne and Darren Berry is the closest I’ve been to an Australian first-class set-up and I’m loving it and learning alot.”
Mascarenhas will likely have his chance to display what he has learned on Sunday in the top of the table clash against Chennai and like the rest of the men under Warne’s control he’ll no doubt be striving to produce his best for his inspirational larger than life leader.