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An unlikely hero emerged in a familiar setting as the 41-year-old leg-spinner Pravin Tambe spun Rajasthan Royals to a 30-run win over Highveld Lions at their stronghold, the Sawai Mansingh Stadium, here on Wednesday. Introduced in the 12th over of Lions’ chase of an imposing 183, Man of the Match Tambe took four wickets for 15 runs in three overs, allowing his team to extend their impressive home record to ten straight wins.
Royals had earlier mounted their biggest total of the tournament thanks to contributions all along their batting order, after Alviro Petersen asked them to bat. Dravid supplied the initial momentum, while Stuart Binny and Shane Watson shaped the middle stages, before Brad Hodge topped things off with a blistering cameo.
Lions' pursuit suffered from early setbacks. Medium pacer Vikramjeet Malik and left-arm seamer James Faulkner had reduced them to 36/3 in the fifth over, when Hardus Viljoen (24) and Peterson (40) initiated an act of rescue. Their fourth-wicket alliance of 53 in 6.3 overs kept Lions on track before a masterful move by skipper Dravid turned the tables.
Dravid deployed leggie Tambe – without a single First Class or List A game to his name - in the 12th over. First up, Tambe bowled Viljoen - who was earlier dropped by Dravid - and in his second over removed Jean Symes (3) and Sohail Tanvir (0), the asking rate climbing menacingly towards the 12-run mark. Tambe’s fourth scalp, rival captain Petersen’s, signaled the end, Lions concluding on 153/9 in their allocated quota of 20.
Dravid (31) got Royals moving after Lions elected to field, and at the end of the mandatory Powerplay, the Rajasthan franchise were 36 for the loss of Ajinkya Rahane (6) and Sanju Samson (12). Watson took over the scoring when Dravid hit Dwaine Pretorious straight to the cover fielder in the 10th over. The Australian’s ascension to prominence was marked by a rapidly increasing run-rate as he took 22, including two sixes, off left-arm spinner Aaron Phangiso’s 13th over of the innings, and brought up the team hundred.
Having added 41 with Binny, Watson paid the penalty for going after Lions’ best bowler – left-arm pacer Lonwabo Tsotobe – and was caught at long-on for a 24-ball 33. Almost on cue, Binny (38, 20b) started revving ominously, taking Phangiso for 15 in his last over, for a match analysis of 0/52 in four overs.
It was Hodge’s 23-ball 46 that provided the final flourish. Hodge saved his best for the last over when he carted the wrong-footed Tanvir for 21, including two sixes and as many fours, undoing the good work of the left-arm fast bowler’s tight opening spell.