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Sunrisers Hyderabad pulled off a clinical performance with both bat and ball to register an emphatic nine-wicket win over Rajasthan Royals in their IPL opener. With David Warner and Steve Smith missing, the spotlight was squarely on the two stand-in skippers – Kane Williamson and Ajinkya Rahane – as Sunrisers Hyderabad hosted Rajasthan Royals for their opening game of the Indian Premier League.

Two incidents involving the two captains would set the tone for how their respective teams would go about their tasks on the field. Incidentally, both episodes occurred on the final ball of the opening over of either innings.

After being put into bat, Rajasthan lost their first wicket in the opening over of the innings thanks to a lightning-quick run-out of D’Arcy Short executed by Williamson. As the batsmen looked to steal a run, the Kiwi star, who was standing at mid-off quickly collected and released the ball catching the batsman short of his crease.

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Like Williamson, Rahane’s sharpness in the field was also put to test when Rajasthan took to the field. The India Test vice-captain, though, failed to match his counterpart.

Dhawal Kulkarni had found the outside edge of opener Shikhar Dhawan’s bat in the first over of Sunrisers’ chase. The batsman at the time was batting on 0. The ball went straight to Rahane stationed at first slip. Unfortunately for the Royals, he could not hold on.

The two contrasting efforts by the skippers summed up the day for their respective teams.

Following Williamson’s early strike, Sunrisers were all over the Rajasthan batsmen. Rahane’s men would be restricted to 125/9 in 20 overs.

Rajasthan’s troubles only worsened after the drop. Dhawan went onto to score an unbeaten 77 and shared an unbroken 121-run stand with Williamson (36*) as Sunrisers romped to a comfortable nine-wicket win.

As the game panned out, it became increasingly clear that only one of the two skippers was unperturbed by as the leadership role.

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Williamson was in the thick of things through out the game. After the dramatic run-out effort, he would also complete a fine running catch from long-on to send the dangerous Ben Stokes back.

However, it was his proactive approach as captain that shone brightest. He rotated the bowlers cleverly. He even shuffled the order in which he used his five bowlers. Most bowlers got 1-over spells through the innings, robbing any hope Rajasthan’s batsmen had to settle into a routine.

To their credit, the Hyderabad bowlers were up to the task and delivered for their captain. Siddharth Kaul was the standout bowler with figures of 4-0-17-2.

The relentless pressure saw Rajasthan slip from 52/1 to 96/6.

Defending a modest total, early wickets were the only way but Rahane’s drop catch did not help Rajasthan’s cause. That he could not find a way to break the Dhawan-Williamson stand further highlighted his struggle.

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To be fair to Rahane, Williamson has more experience as a skipper among the two. He is the regular skipper of New Zealand across formats. Rahane, meanwhile, has remained in the shadow of Virat Kohli in the national team.

Thrust into the hot seat, it was only natural that Williamson would be better equipped to ease into the role.

It’s no secret that both teams were built around Smith and Warner. While one game isn’t enough to judge the prowess of a captain, the one-sided result on Monday was quite telling.

What one can deduce from the opening game is that one side seems to have moved on from the absence of their star leader, the other might need more time to come to grips with it. Clearly, Rajasthan seemed to have missed Smith more than Hyderabad missed Warner.#KhabarLive