The Rajasthan Royals were the surprise leaders of the Indian Premier League (IPL) after the first week of big-hitting action – with a 100 per cent record from their first three games.
The unfancied franchise, without skipper Shane Watson through injury, upset 2014 finalists Kings XI Punjab, Delhi Daredevils and former winners Mumbai Indians to sit top of the tree.
The Royals opened their campaign with a 26-run victory over Kings XI last Friday (10), with Aussie all-rounder James Faulkner (46 from 33 balls and 3-26) being named the man of the match.
Then came a three-wicket win over the Daredevils last Sunday (12), which saw the emergence of 19-year-old Deepak Hooda, who blasted 54 from 24 deliveries in a 185-run chase.
Steve Smith then capped a perfect five days for Rajasthan when his 79 off 53 balls surpassed Mumbai’s 164-5 to inflict their third defeat in as many games and keep Rohit Sharma’s flops rooted to the bottom of the table.
Two-time champs Chennai Super Kings are the only other unbeaten team of the eight competitors at on Tuesday (14), thanks to triumphs over Delhi and Sunrisers Hyderabad.
They were lucky to get away with a win against Delhi last Thursday (9); their bowlers just helping to inch out a one-run triumph in the closest game of the tournament so far. Albie Morkel’s (73 not out off 55) efforts were all in vain.
Brendon McCullum made sure things were a bit more comfortable against the Sunrisers days later, smashing the first century (100 off 56, including nine maximums) and the first 200-plus team total of IPL8.
Captain MS Dhoni (53 from 29) also contributed to the 209-4 score, a chase which Hyderabad fell 45 runs short.
Other highlights of the first week included Royal Challengers Bangalore’s three wicket victory (with six balls remaining) over defending champions Kolkata Knight Riders. Slugger Chris Gayle was in sparkling form, with 96 from 56 balls to seal the win.
Rohit also came close to a ton in the opening match with Kolkata last Wednesday (8), but fell two runs short in defeat.
Delhi and Mumbai were the only winless sides to date, with Kolkata, Bangalore, Kings XI and Hyderabad all winning one and losing one.