Shane Warne inspired Rajasthan Royals to a two-run win over Deccan Chargers in Nagpur last night to keep his side's hopes of making the IPL semi-finals alive. The ex-Australia leg-spinner ended the Chargers' hopes with four wickets even though Rohit Sharma (73) was batting beautifully at the other end, chasing 160 to win.
Siddharth Trivedi, the mediumpacer, bowled a dream last over, taking two of the last three wickets to fall - including Sharma's - for a famous victory that will surely have put paid to Deccan's hopes of a final four qualification. But it was Warne, the captain-cum-coach, who turned things around for his team by accounting for the wickets of Anirudh Singh, Dwayne Smith, A Bilakhia and fellow Australian Ryan Harris.
On a personal note, it would have been hugely satisfying for Warne to score psychological points over his opposite number and former Test teammate, Adam Gilchrist (34), with whom he has had misgivings in the past. With the result, the Royals moved up to fourth in the IPL table but having played the extra game while the Chargers languish in seventh. But all this would not have happened if not for a solid 58 from Shane Watson's bat and 36 from Faiz Fazal as the Royals were bowled out for 159 - RP Singh taking three for 17.
But Rajasthan had never lost a match defending a total in excess of 150 and Warne kept that record intact with figures of four for 21. "It was one of those days when a few things went right for us. Our fielding and catching was superb, our intensity and all the bowlers did a great job. We have responded well as a group," Warne said at the end of the game. "Mr and Mrs Cricket" will bolster their chances of extending their honeymoon past the IPL regular season if their Chennai Super Kings side beat Mumbai Indians today.
Stephen Fleming, the Chennai coach, coined the term in his newspaper column in reference to his side's famously anorakish overseas duo, Muttiah Muralitharan and Mike Hussey. However, it is their other Murali, the lesser-known Murali Vijay, who has hogged the limelight of late, as their pursuit of a semi- final place has gathered pace. Vijay, 26, has had an inconspicuous five-Test career with India, but he is fast becoming one of the new generation of celebrities, thanks to his violent 127 last time out.
His century against Rajasthan was the second highest individual score in the short history of the IPL, and helped Chennai to register the largest team total of 246, breaking their own record by six. There could be no more striking contrast in styles between Vijay and the classical hero of today's opponents, Sachin Tendulkar. The Mumbai captain's travails in the first two campaigns perfectly reflected those of his side: an embarrassingly rich arsenal of weapons, yet the gunpowder was damp.
However, the franchise's owners are finally getting the performances that are commensurate with their outlay this term. The Indians are leading the way, having won eight and lost just one so far. Kieron Pollard will be keen to impress for the Mumbai side. Chennai were one of the four franchises who bid the maximum $750,000 (Dh2.75m) for the towering West Indian all-rounder, before Mumbai secured him on a silent tie-breaker. * With agencies. Additional reporting by Paul Radley Watch Chennai v Mumbai, 6.30pm, CricOne
Rajasthan Royals: Michael Lumb c Harris b Singh 15 Naman Ojha c Harris b Singh 1 Faiz Fazal c Bilakhia b Ojha 36 Shane Watson c Anirudh Singh b Singh 58 Yusuf Pathan c Laxman b Harris 5 Abhishek Jhunjhunwala c Laxman b Harmeet Singh 11 Abhishek Raut lbw b Harmeet Singh 0 Shane Warne run out (Singh) 1 Morne Morkel not out 7 A Dole c Symonds b Harris 4 Siddharth Trivedi b Smith 9 Extras (b 2, lb 4, w 6) 12 Total (all out; 19.5 overs) 159 Fall of wickets: 1-16, 2-17, 3-94, 4-103, 5-130, 6-130, 7-136, 8-140, 9-145 Bowling: Ryan Harris 4-0-34-2 Dwayne Smith 2.5-0-22-1 RP Singh 4-0-17-3 Harmeet Singh 4-0-25-2 Andrew Symonds 2-0-18-0 Pragyan Ojha 3-0-37-1 Deccan Chargers: VVS Laxman c Pathan b Dole 6 Adam Gilchrist c Lumb b Dole 34 Rohit Sharma c Raut b Trivedi 73 Andrew Symonds c Fazal b Trivedi 15 Anirudh Singh c Ojha b Warne 9 Dwayne Smith c Dole b Warne 4 A Bilakhia c Raut b Warne 2 Ryan Harris b Warne 1 R P Singh c Morkel b Trivedi 3 Harmeet Singh run out (Trivedi) 0 Pragyan Ojha not out 0 Extras (b 1, lb 2, w 6, nb 1) 10 Total (all out in 19.5 overs) 157 Fall of wickets: 1-26, 2-47, 3-86, 4-112, 5-120, 6-137, 7-139, 8-156, 9-157 Bowling: Yusuf Pathan 2-0-3-0 Shane Watson 3-0-40-0 A Dole 4-0-42-2 Morne Morkel 4-0-32-0 Siddharth Trivedi 2.5-0-16-3 Shane Warne 4-0-21-4