The Delhi Daredevils had got the wicket of their choice at the Ferozshah Kotla. But there was no such luck for the Rajasthan Royals, who were asked to play on a side pitch which forced the official broadcasters to scramble their cameras with little time in hand. That too, for the crucial game against Chennai Super Kings with the two teams in the final race for a play-off berth.
The result was a flat, batting track that negated their strength, spin bowling, made the boundary shorter on one side and the Chennai Super Kings ran away to a huge score and a win after being asked to bat first.
The Rajasthan Royals skipper Shane Warne had tweeted before the match, questioning the sudden decision to shift the big game to a side wicket.
After Sachin Tendulkar termed the Sawai Man Singh stadium wicket slow and low following the game on April 29, the board's pitches and grounds committee head Venkat Sundaram flew down the next day, to ask the hosts to change the pitch for the game against the defending champions. He didn't even wait for that evening's game against Pune Warriors.
Since Sachin hadn't even lodged an official complaint, as Mumbai Indians made it clear through their press release, it was surprising to see the pitch changed. "First time in four years we are asked which wicket to play on -- strange," said Shane Warne, making his displeasure known through his tweet. No wonder he put CSK into bat, not knowing what sort of target to set.
The Super Kings weren't the ones to lose out on the opportunity. They made full use of the batting conditions against a lacklustre bowling attack. The fielding was also below par.
Ajinkya Rahane dropped Murali Vijay at point off Shane Watson early on to let the opener off the hook. Vijay turned the opportunity into gold, hitting his second fifty of the season. Together with consistent Mike Hussey, they ran off to a 70-odd partnership in just under 10 overs. Warne's bowling lacked the usual zip. That was the case with everyone else with only Johan Botha looking decent.
With the platform set, MS Dhoni decided to rub it in. He promoted himself and took it beyond the Royals, hammering three sixes and three fours in his 19-ball 41.
For a win from here needed a special knock from the home side, which didn't come about. Till Watson was in, there was a slight chance. But once he was gone, the rest crumbled. Only Rahane resisted with 52. Surprisingly, Botha, a batting star at No. 3 in previous games, came in at No. 6. It was too late. But then, against a total of 196, it always would have been.
The aggressive Tamil Nadu and India opener played a crucial knock, top-scoring with a 40-ball 53 and setting a solid foundation by sharing in a fluent opening partnership with Aussie Mike Hussey. It was his second fifty of this season and lifted the champions in their race for a play-off berth.