New Delhi: Brad Hodge proved his worth as one of the most sought after T20 cricketers in the world as he single-handedly guided Rajasthan Royals to a four-wicket win over Sunrisers Hyderabad in a thrilling low scoring 'Eliminator' of the Pepsi Indian Premier League here today.
Chasing a target of 133, Hodge hit Darren Sammy for two consecutive sixes to finish the match with four balls to spare and ensure his team's qualification to the next edition of Champions League T20. Royals will now meet Mumbai Indians in the second qualifier in Kolkata on Friday.
The 38-year-old 'T20 freelancer' clobbered his way to a 29-ball 54 not out as Royals pulled off one of their most significant victories after the 'spot-fixing' scandal broke out with the arrest of three of their cricketers including S Sreesanth.
Hodge came in at 57 for five but never looked under any kind of pressure as he hit five clean sixes apart from the couple of boundaries.
Skipper Rahul Dravid (12, 3x4) started with three boundaries but closed the face of the bat to an Ishant Sharma delivery which found the leading edge for the point fielder to take the catch.
However, Shane Watson kept on belting boundaries -- five of them -- as the Royals raced to 50 in the seventh over before the Aussie all-rounder was sent back due to an inspirational piece of fielding by Sammy.
Watson pulled a half-tracker from leggie Karan Sharma which looked sailing towards the 'cow-corner' stands and to everyone's astonishment, Sammy leapt up and took a magnificent catch. The timing of his jump was immaculate as it looked as if he plucked a fruit from a tree.
After performing with the bat and on the field, it was time to roll over his arm and Sammy did not disappoint either.
First, he cleaned up Dishant Yagnik (0) with a fuller delivery and then bowled a cutter which breached Stuart Binny's defence (2). In between the two dismissals, Amit Mishra foxed Ajinkya Rahane (18) to commit early and got a caught and bowled in his favour.
Earlier, Rajasthan produced a disciplined bowling performance as they restricted Sunrisers Hyderabad to 132 for seven.
All the Royals bowlers did a splendid job as Sunrisers batsmen could never really force the pace during the entire 20 overs save West Indies skipper Darren Sammy (29, 3x6) striking a few lusty blows during the fag end of the innings.
Shikhar Dhawan (33, 39 balls, 3x4) was the other significant contributor although his innings was an uncharacteristic one by his standards as the slowness of the track did not help his cause either.
While Vikramjeet Malik (2/14) provided twin breakthroughs, James Faulkner (1/28) and Siddharth Trivedi (1/18) consistently hit the right length on a track that was totally different from the one on which Chennai Super Kings batsmen ran riot in the Qualifier yesterday.
Portly Himachal Pradesh medium pacer Malik was rewarded for his wicket—to—wicket bowling as he removed Parthiv Patel (1) and Hanuma Vihari (1) off successive overs.
Parthiv closed the face of the bat to a delivery that landed on the good length spot and Sanju Samson, stationed at extra cover, ran backwards to take a tumbling catch.
In his very next over, Malik removed Vihari with a back of the length delivery which climbed on the batsman who offered a simple catch to mid—on fielder Kevon Cooper.