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NEW DELHI: Kevon Cooper bowled a brilliant last over under pressure as he conceded only three runs and took two wickets as Rajasthan Royals edged out Delhi Daredevils by five runs in a at the Feroz Shah Kotla today as the hosts slumped to their second defeat in IPL-6. The Royals also had other heroes in captain Rahul Dravid, Ajinkya Rahane and Stuart Binny as they got their campaign off to a winning start.
Daredevils appeared to be cruising towards the 166-run target with a steady David Warner, who scored a 56-ball 77, anchoring the chase before he ran himself out in the 19th over going for a difficult single with only 13 runs required to win and that was the moment for the Royals to claw their way back into the match. Warner was dropped on 2 by Dravid off S Sreesanth's bowling, and it looked for a long time that drop would cost the visitors dearly. Dravid was forced to hobble off the ground after the dropped catch with Brad Hodge taking over as stand-in captain.
Binny justified his surprise promotion up the order and Dravid batted like he was never away to help Royals score a competitive 165 for 7 after deciding to bat first. The Royals' score could have exceeded 180 had it not been for the last two overs of their innings when they lost four wickets for six runs.
Dravid (65) came into bat in the fourth over after IPL debutant Kusal Perera (14) became the first of Umesh Yadav's first victim when he was caught by Irfan Pathan at extra cover. Dravid, who was dismissed in the 19th over, had some uncertain times in his time in the middle, but for the most part, was his usual composed self and showed his silken touch that was sorely missed since his retirement.
Unmukt Chand and Warner got the Daredevils' chase off to a steady start, but the Delhi youngster, who was clean bowled by Brett Lee in the first delivery of IPL-6, did hit Badree for a six over deep midwicket, but for the most life led a charmed life. Chand (23) was put out of his misery by S Sreesanth who clean bowled the youngster with a ripper of a delivery that nipped in from a length. Sreesanth celebrated the wicket and his return to the IPL in characteristic manner as he pointed to his name at the back of the Royals' jersey.
Warner started slowly and at one stage was on 3 from 12 deliveries, but he broke the shackles by hitting two consecutive boundaries off Samuel Badree in the fifth over. Warner, who seemed to take a leaf out of Chris Gayle's book took time to play himself in, but once he was set, unleashed his array of shots as he started taking the Daredevils towards victory despite the mounting run rate.
In the middle of Warner's counter attack, Rahane took a spectacular diving catch at point as he plucked the delivery from air to dismiss Daredevils captain Mahela Jayawardene to give the Royals a much-needed breakthrough. Despite this setback, Warner was unfazed before his mindfreeze moment and Cooper's last over took the Royals over the line.
Earlier, Dravid, who was awarded the Padma Bhushan yesterday, consolidated the Royals' innings with a 65-run partnership in 8.3 overs with Ajinkya Rahane for the second wicket as the pair kept the scoreboard ticking over by hardly playing any dot balls and ran the quick singles as they took advantage of some sloppy Daredevils' fielding - the hosts would have conceded at least 15 extra runs because of misfields, overthrows and dropped catches.
Rahane played his part in the second wicket partnership, and was the more aggressive of the pair at a time when Dravid struggled a little to regain his touch. Rahane hit three boundaries in his 24-ball 28 before Shahbaz Nadeem caught him off his own bowling. Rahane's dismissal proved to be an unexpected blessing for the Royals as Binny cut loose and gave the much required impetus to the visitors' innings.
Binny was especially harsh on Johan Botha and Ashish Nehra during his blistering 20-ball 40 that contained two boundaries and three massive sixes. Botha was introduced into the attack only in the 15th over, and in hindsight, he would have hoped not to be given the ball, because Binny hit him for two sixes and a boundary, as he conceded 19 runs in his only over. Binny then hit Nehra for a six and a boundary before Yadav (4-24) uprooted his stumps in the 17th over to end the quick-fire third wicket partnership of 55 in 4.4 overs with the Royals' score at 142.
While the Binny mayhem was taking place at one end, Dravid went about his business in the manner that he is known for - by playing proper cricketing shots without taking too many adverse risks. Dravid though had his share of twin fortune in the 13th over of the Royals' innings bowled by Andre Russell when he was dropped on 38 when the bowler failed to latch on to a tough catch and then David Warner dropped a catch on the long on boundary, to make matters worse, he palmed the ball over for a six. Dravid's brilliant rearguard 51-ball 65 was ended by Yadav when he had the Royals' captain caught by Mahela Jayawardene at extra cover; the bowler then dismissed Brad Hodge. In the last over of the Royals' innings, Ashish Nehra dismissed Cooper and Ashok Menaria off consecutive deliveries as the Daredevils reined in the visitors in their last two overs, but in the final analysis, it proved to be five runs too many.