For some it was a shocker, for others a bright victory prospect. Kochi Tuskers batsman Michael Klinger appeared the ideal choice to make his IPL debut replacing an injured Brendon McCullum, but knowing rival skipper Shane Warne's love for the man, Mahela Jayawardene decided to give VVS Laxman a shot at the top.
But Laxman's best partner in Indian cricket - Rahul Dravid --- who pulled off a smart run out in the fourth over to give Rajasthan Royals the early breakthrough. The Tuskers never quite recovered from there and went down by eight wickets here on Sunday.
The pitch was supposed to have been made to order for Warne. Opting to bowl first, the leggie picked up three wickets for a measly 16 runs with Liz Hurley - in a Royals uniform - cheering from the stands.
Johan Botha was brought back into the fold in place of Shaun Tait, and he struck with his first delivery to get rid of an in-form Jayawardene.
While spinners were stealing the limelight, Warne's trusted paceman for four seasons, Siddharth Trivedi, too came back strongly to claim three wickets. The Tuskers sorely missed McCullum, and it put some pressure on Jayawardene, who had accelerate. A lot depended on Brad Hodge, Parthiv Patel and Ravindra Jadeja, but none really got going.
With a target of 110 runs, it was one run chase that Dravid would relish - he could play all the shots and have a smooth sailing. And by the time he was run out on 44, the Royals had 71 on board and had practically shut out any scope of a Tuskers fightback. Shane Watson then cut loose on Muttiah Muralitharan. A much forgettable fielding outing by the Tuskers made life even easier as the Royals were home with 5.5 overs to spare.