HYDERABAD: Johan Botha smashed his way to an unbeaten half-century as Rajasthan Royals kicked off their campaign in the fourth edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) with a comfortable eight-wicket win over Deccan Chargers on Saturday.
Electing to field after skipper Shane Warne won the toss, Rajasthan rode on Siddharth Trivedi's three for 15 and Amit Singh's three for 35 to restrict Chargers to none too impressive 137 in their stipulated 20 overs.
Chasing a modest total, Rajasthan then rode on Botha's unbeaten 47-ball 67 to romp home in 18.5 overs.
Botha's innings included eight boundaries and a massive six.
After the bowlers' disciplined show, Amit Paunikar and Rahul Dravid failed to set the stage ablaze, but made valuable contributions which proved handy in the end, at the Rajiv Gandhi International stadium.
Paunikar swept Pragyan Ojha's first ball of the innings to the fine-leg boundary to kick off the chase and then drove the next delivery over wide midwicket region.
The 23-year-old right-hander gave ample evidence of what he is capable of, in the next over.
Up against Dale Steyn, the world's number one fast bowler, Paunikar caressed the South African speed merchant through covers, and then swiveled to pull him over midwicket in grand fashion.
Steyn, however, had the last laugh when he had Paunikar caught behind in the innings' sixth over, to cut short a promising innings.
Botha along with Dravid raised a productive half-century partnership to take their team closer to victory. Steyn dismissed Dravid for 28 but by that time, the match was more or less in Rajasthan's bag.
Despite losing Paunikar, Rajasthan never looked in any sort of trouble as Botha was going great guns.
Botha played every shot in the book -- he swept Ojha, reverse swept Amit Mishra, pulled Steyn, drove and glanced Dan Christian -- during his blazing knock.
After Dravid's departure, Botha along with Ross Taylor guided the team home. Taylor remained not out on 21 off 14 balls.
Earlier, Shikhar Dhawan and Ishank Jaggi gave Deccan a flying start, putting on 40 runs for the first wicket in less than five overs, before Amit dismissed the former for 24.
The left-hander from Delhi played some stunning shots during his brief stay at the crease, including a six over deep midwicket off Amit, before the bowler had his revenge two balls later with a well disguised slower ball.
In the next over, the Hyderabad outfit was dealt a body blow, when they lost skipper Kumar Sangakkara to Trivedi even before the left-handed Sri Lankan could open his account.
Sangakkara poked at a short-of-length delivery that cut away and keeper Abhishek Raut dived to left to complete a neat catch.
Jean-Paul Duminy sent Warne over long-on during his 17-ball 14 but could not sustain the momentum, lofting the Australian to the long-off fielder.
Warne finished with impressive figures of two for 21 from his four overs. Duminy's was a big wicket as the South African was in good form during the recently-concluded World Cup in the sub-continent.
With the top-order batsmen back in the dug out, it was left to Daniel Christian and D Ravi Teja to infuse some life into Deccan innings.
While Christian contributed 26 off 19 deliveries with the help of two sixes and a boundary, Teja struck 28 off 20 balls ti finish as the team's highest scorer.
Teja's innings included 2 fours and a six. That Deccan failed to put up a big score was due to some smart captaincy by Warne. The legendary leg-spinner from Australia was also backed by youngsters like Trivedi and Amit.
As the opening duo of Dhawan and Jaggi went after Jacob Oram and Amit, Warne forced a bowling change bringing himself on, to stem the flow of runs.
The ploy worked and as runs dried up, the batsmen were forced to play extravagant shots that led to their dismissals.
Shane Warne (c), Amit Singh, Johan Botha, Rahul Dravid, Ashok Menaria, Jacob Oram, A Paunikar, A Raut, Shaun Tait, Ross Taylor, Siddharth Trivedi.
Kumar Sangakkara (c), Shikhar Dhawan, JP Duminy, B Chipli, D Christian, D Ravi Teja, I Jaggi, A Mishra, Dale Steyn, Ishant Sharma, Pragyan Ojha.