After a run glut of a T20 game, where over 400 runs combined were scored, the second IPL 7 match of the evening in Abu Dhabi was much more attritional, with the Rajasthan Royals having just a little more extra on the night to top the Sunrisers Hyderabad.
Last season's Sunrisers campaign was defined by their batsmen failing to put up a big score with the bowlers time and again bailing their batters out as they managed a top-four finish. Well, if the first match of the IPL 7 season is anything to go by, it could very well be déjà vu, with the Sunrisers batsmen, despite having a couple of extra big-time smashers in their lineup in the seventh edition, only managing 133 for six from their 20 overs.
In reply, the Royals huffed and puffed a little with the Hyderabad bowlers creating a few flutters, before Stuart Binny's unbeaten 48 saw them through in the final over - Rajasthan finishing on 135 for six in 19.3 overs.
Three times the Sunrisers defended a total under 140 last season, and their chances of beginning IPL 7 proceedings with a similar victory were increased by picking up Abhishek Nayar in just the third ball of the innings - Dale Steyn trapping the left-hander in front of off stump.
Sanju Samson (3, 9b), sent in ahead of skipper Shane Watson, never looked comfortable at the crease, and gifted his wicket away in the fourth over to Bhuvneshwar Kumar, lofting one straight to Shikhar Dhawan at mid-off.
Bhuvneshwar was in the zone for the Sunrisers, holding the ball on a string, moving it one way and then the other to trouble all batsmen. Rahane and Watson kept finding the outside edges of their bats, but the ball also kept evading the fielders as the two experienced duo looked to fight through the tricky spell.
Watson (3, 7b), though, fell in the first over after the Powerplay, with the outside edge, off the bowling from Ishant Sharma, this time going straight to wicketkeeper KL Rahul.
The wicket of Watson heightened Rahane's importance of staying at the crease just that little bit more and the India regular did just that, stitching together a partnership with Stuart Binny as the Royals looked to inch closer to the target.
Binny is a clinical finisher in the IPL, well aware of when to find the boundaries and to rotate the strike, with the all-rounder's innings also taking the pressure off Rahane, who despite getting a half-century, struggled during his entire innings.
Rahane (59, 53b, 6x4) perished in the 16th over, with the Royals only needing 26 runs from the final four overs, thanks to a 58-ball 77-run partnership for the fourth wicket
Brad Hodge ate up eight deliveries for just one run before holing out in the deep off the impressive Amit Mishra, as the Sunrisers sensed another bowlers-comes-up-trumps victory.
However, Binny was coolness personified as the Karnataka all-rounder brought the equation down to the 17 from the final two overs. Rajat Bhatia, so impressive with the ball in the first innings, smoked a boundary off Steyn's first delivery in the 19th, but holed out a couple of deliveries later looking for another boundary, which again put the onus on Binny.
Binny (48 n.o., 32, 4x4, 1x6) found the ropes to bring the target down to eight in the last over, with Bhuvneshwar given the unenviable job of keeping the Royals to seven runs and below. It proved to be just a little too much, though, as Faulkner found two consecutive boundaries to finish the game off for the Royals.
The first innings was nothing much to shout about, with the Sunrisers' big hitters falling short, while the Rajasthan bowlers did pretty well.
There were variations in pace and some good smart bowling from the Royals, with the Sunrisers, even with the likes of Aaron Finch, David Warner, Shikhar Dhawan and Darren Sammy in their ranks, unable to get the run rate hitting the heights needed to ensure a victory.
Finch did not have much of an opportunity to show his prowess with the bat for his new side, plonking one straight to Kane Richardson at cover to give Dhawal Kulkarni (two for 23) a cheap wicket in the first over.
Warner came in at No. 3, and the Australian went about building a decent alliance with captain Dhawan.
The two southpaws out on 75 runs together, even if it took them 64 deliveries to do so. That would have been fine had one of them, if not both, carried on and played their part in the final onslaught, but Dhawan, first, and then Warner, who managed just a single boundary in his 35-ball 32-run knock, fell in quick succession to suck out the momentum from the Sunrisers innings.
Dhawan (38, 34b, 3x4, 1x6), looking to accelerate in the 12th over, found Richardson in the deep perfectly with Bhatia (two for 22) yet again proving to be a wily operator in the IPL. Bhatia would also induce a false stroke from Warner, who also found Richardson at deep midwicket as the Sunrisers went from 77 for one to 82 for three.
With Hyderabad choosing to leave out Irfan Pathan, the onus was on Sammy to find the boundaries, but the West Indian, for once, failed to do so as the Sunrisers faltered in the final overs, managing just 43 runs.