Shane Watson leads Rajasthan Royals to Play-offs


Finally, Rajasthan did the right thing and relived Shane Watson of captaincy duties and he was left to focus on his core cricketing skills. Saturday night was his second game as just a player and he dragged Rajasthan to a match winning total of 199.

When he decides everything has to go, Watson borrows from baseball technique. The back foot goes back first and he launches himself forward from that position as a baseball batter does. Using such a technique, he launched the Morne Morkel delivery way over the midwicket boundary in the 19th over to reach 96 before he sliced Umesh Yadav to the point boundary to bring up the landmark. But all that manic hitting came right in the end; this knock was built on judicious shot selection and composure.

At times, in the past, he has been guilty of swiping across the line or trying something extra, but you couldn’t say that about this innings. Against the new ball, he almost dealt in the ‘V’, driving the Kolkata bowlers to disarray on a track where the ball came crisply on to the bat. Time and again, he threaded the off-side field and as ever, dispatched anything on the legs. The crowd saw a microcosm of his knock in the very first over off Azhar Mahmood, who incidentally was a strange choice considering Kolkata chose to drop Sunil Narine to give the Pakistani his first game of the season. Watson collected two fours — a cover drive and a flick and was up and running.

Watson was involved in a run-out that threatened to derail the innings. Ajinkya Rahane, who hit a breezy 22-ball 37, drove a ball to sweeper cover and was half-way down the track for the second run when he realised Watson hadn’t budged. And he couldn’t get back in time to beat the throw. Rajasthan were 80 and it was just the ninth over then. Soon, Steve Smith too fell, flicking a hip-high full toss to short fine-leg and Rajasthan began to lose momentum.
It was at this juncture that Watson decided to flex his muscles and revert to his baseball technique. And it was here that Kolkata’s selection of Mahmood again caught them on the wrong foot.