Rajasthan Royals Brad Hodge
Rajasthan Royals batsman Brad Hodge in a punishing mood against the Sunrisers Hyderabad in their IPL 2013 gameShaun Roy/IPL/SPORTZPICS

It was an extremely difficult pitch to bat on, hardly conducive for shot-making; at least that is what the first 15 batsmen in the match led everyone to believe.

However, the 16th batsman - a man named Brad Hodge - made the pitch and the Sunrisers Hyderabad bowlers look like child's play to take the Rajasthan Royals to the brink of the IPL 2013 final after a four-wicket win in the Eliminator at the Feroz Shah Kotla.

Hodge played a little gem of an innings, scoring 54 runs in just 29 balls under tremendous pressure to guide the Royals to the 133-run target, eventually finishing on 135 for six in 19.2 overs.

Choosing to bat first, the Sunrisers batsmen failed to impress yet again, nudging to 132 for seven in their allotted 20 overs.

The Sunrisers bowlers, who have time and again bailed their batsmen out of trouble and pulled off impressive victories, were just asked to do it one time too many as the Royals eventually managed to get to their target.

The Royals will now face the Mumbai Indians in Qualifier 2 at the Eden gardens on Friday, with the winner of that match set to face the Chennai Super Kings in the final on Sunday.

Rahul Dravid looked good in the first couple of overs, scoring three boundaries, but Ishant Sharma induced a leading edge off the Royals skipper with Karan Sharma completing the catch.

Shane Watson came in and looked in imperious mood, threatening to take the game away with a few lusty hits, as the Royals raced to 44 for one at the completion of the powerplay overs.

It all went pear-shaped from there for the Royals, though, as they lost four wickets in four overs.

Watson - thanks to a stunning catch in the deep by Sammy - Dishant Yagnik - with Sammy this time taking the wicket - Ajinkya Rahane - caught and bowled by Amit Mishra - and Stuart Binny - that man Sammy again castling the danger man - all lost their wickets.

The Sunrisers suddenly looked heavy favorites for the win, with the Royals on a sketchy 57 for five.

However, when chasing low totals, all it takes is one decent partnership and one quickfire innings and that came courtesy Brad Hodge, who, under immense pressure, made the total look like a walk in the park and in the company of the excellent Sanju Samson, took the Royals closer to victory.

However, that man Dale Steyn came to the party, trapping Samson (10, 21b) in front of the wicket, leaving the Royals needing 31 in the last four overs, which was very much manageable as long as Hodge was at the crease.

The target was reduced to 15 from 12 balls with James Faulkner giving Hodge good company. Thisara Perera, though, bowled a good penultimate over, conceding just five runs, leaving the Royals needing ten from the last six balls.

Hodge (54, 29b, 2x4, 5x6) was not too bothered, though, smashing a couple of sixes off Sammy to seal an absolutely brilliant victory.

Earlier, the Sunrisers innings was symptomatic of the rest of the side's batting in IPL 2013, with the batsmen struggling on a slow pitch as the Royals held a stranglehold on the game.

The Hyderabad side got off to an awful start, losing their first two wickets with just three runs on the board.

Parthiv Patel, who has been in good form off late, could not continue the run, losing his wicket in the first over. The wicketkeeper-batsman went for an ill-advised hoick over midwicket off Vikramjeet Malik, but only managed a top edge, which was easily caught by Sanju Samson.

It was obvious after just the first over that the wicket was not at all similar to the belter from last night, with the ball hardly coming onto the bat and stroke making very much at a premium.

Even scoring at a run-a-ball was not going to be easy on this wicket, and perhaps the Sunrisers should not have sent the young and impetuous Hanuma Vihari at No. 3, with Cameron White or the more solid Biplab Samantray the better option.

However, the batting side stuck to their normal lineup and Vihari was walking back to the pavilion after struggling for eight balls, scoring just one run.

Then came the crucial partnership, which set the platform for the likes of Darren Sammy and Thisara Perera to hopefully go nuts in the final overs.

Shikhar Dhawan and skipper Cameron White, realizing the nature of the wicket, got their heads down and built a solid partnership of 52 from 8.3 overs; both players were happy to pick up the singles, while waiting for the right balls to find the boundary.

Dhawan, so elegant in full flow, just could not find his range on the difficult pitch, but there was still room there for a couple of typically wonderful cover drives, which raced past the infield at the slightest of touches.

White, slowly but surely, took the lead in the partnership with the Australian looking really good in the middle, before throwing away his wicket at a crucial juncture in the game.

The Sunrisers were ambling along at 55 for two in the 11th over, with White (31, 28b, 5x4) just smashing a boundary to square-leg before holing out to Cooper at mid-off while going for a cross-batted shot off Trivedi.

With the run rate hovering around the 4.5-5 run mark, both Dhawan and Sammy needed to really up the ante, and, unfortunately, when you do that on a pitch which is not conducive to batting, you are bound to lose some wickets.

Dhawan (33, 39b, 3x4), realizing that shots down the ground was not on the menu at the Kotla, played a nice little paddle sweep for four off Faulkner. However, another attempt off the very next delivery led to his demise with Trivedi completing a comfortable catch at short fine-leg.

The Sunrisers now had their two biggest hitters - Sammy and Perera -- in the middle, and they raised hopes of a score nearing 150, belting a few sixes, with Sammy in particular, looking extremely dangerous.

However, an excellent piece of fielding from substitute fielder Rajiv Shukla dismissed Sammy, with Perera following suit soon after, as the Sunrisers eventually nudged to 132 for seven.