Indian Punter League, Sreesanth, Spot-fixing, Cricket in Crisis, the Gentleman's Game No More, was just some of the stuff that the Rajasthan Royals had to deal with in the backdrop during their IPL 2013 game against the Sunrisers Hyderabad on Friday night.
In their final game of the regular season, before the playoffs, the Royals, reeling from the spot-fixing scandal that has overwhelmed their side, were just unable to find the right ingredients as the Sunrisers moved one step closer to making the playoffs themselves with an impressive 23-run win.
The crowd at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium were treated to another attritional T20 game, with the home side recovering from a disastrous five for three to post a decent score of 136 for nine, thanks largely to a responsible half-century from Biplab Samantray, and despite a brilliant five-wicket haul from James Faulkner.
In reply, the Royals just could not find any momentum as the famed Sunrisers bowlers came to the party again, restricting Rahul Dravid and co. to just 113 for nine.
With the loss, the Royals lost their chance of finishing in the top-two, meaning it will be the Mumbai Indians and CSK that will get a couple of bites at the cherry of making the finals.
The Sunrisers will now join the Royals, MI and CSK in the top four, if they win their final game against the Kolkata Knight Riders.
Dravid started like a house on fire, smashing Ishant Sharma for a six and a four in just the second over as the Royals looked to get on top of the Sunrisers right from the off.
However, the Sunrisers, pulled things back in the next few overs and then picked up the big wicket of Dravid (25, 24b, 2x4, 1x6), who was run out thanks to a direct hit from Cameron White.
Ajinkya Rahane (12, 25, 1x6), who got stuck in the middle, fell an over later - the ninth of the innings - while trying to break the shackles, holing out to Shikhar Dhawan at deep extra cover off Karan Sharma (two for 33).
Sanju Samson came and went soon after, finding the fielder at long-off while looking for a big maximum, with Amit Mishra -- who finished with impressive figures of 4-0-8-2, the most economical of the IPL -- picking up the wicket.
The dangerous pair of Shane Watson and Stuart Binny looked to combine for another magic partnership, but it was not to be as both batsmen fell in the 14th over from Thisara Perera.
Watson (11 in 20 balls) was the first to go, caught at long-on by Darren Sammy before Perera (two for 25) bowled a peach to knock-off the off and middle stump of Binny (8).
The Royals now needed a steep 72 runs from the last six overs, with Brad Hodge and Sachin Baby looking to pull off the impossible.
It was not to be, as the Sunrisers did their business to stay on course for the playoffs.
Earlier, Faulkner was the star man, picking up another five-for in IPL 2013 to keep the Sunrisers at a respectable total.
The home side, who have not had the greatest of times with the bat in this year's IPL, got off to a disastrous start, losing three wickets with just five runs on the board.
Faulkner first dismissed the in-form Parthiv Patel (2), with the left-hander playing on to his stumps while trying to nudge one to third man.
Shikhar Dhawan (1) followed his opening partner in the final ball of the same over. The Indian opener slashed a shot straight to Rahane at point as Faulkner celebrated his second wicket.
Things got worse, when Cameron White went first ball, pulling a short delivery from compatriot Shane Watson straight to Siddharth Trivedi in the deep.
Hanuma Vihari and Biplab Samantray settled things down with a 44-run partnership from 7.5 overs. Both players played reasonably intelligently making, digging their side out of a crisis and making sure there was at least some sort of platform for the rest of the batsmen to take advantage of in the final overs.
Vihari fell after a 28-ball 19 in the 11th over, getting a leading edge off Trivedi with Sachin Baby completing the catch. Darren Sammy and Samantray then put in another crucial partnership, allying for 56 runs in a mere 5.5 overs as the Sunrisers cranked up a gear.
Sammy looked really dangerous during his 19-ball 23-run stay (1x4, 1x6) and it was a pity for the Sunrisers that the West Indian holed out to Brad Hodge at long-off off Faulkner just when he needed to stay on and finish the innings off.
Faulkner, having already picked up three wickets, took a couple more in the 19th over to complete his five-for, accounting for Samantray (55, 46b, 6x4, 1x6) and Dale Steyn to finish with stunning figures of 4-1-16-5.
Two more wickets fell - both run outs - in the final over from Kevon Cooper as the Royals pulled things back a bit to keep the final score at 136 for nine.