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IPL: How Shane Warne led Rajasthan Royals to the inaugural IPL title

The 17th season of the Indian Premier League is almost here, with ten teams set to battle it out in the most pulsating franchise cricket competition in the world.

But it has taken time for the IPL to establish its stellar reputation and it was back in 2008 that the first edition took place, with Rajasthan Royals taking the title under the stewardship of the late, great Shane Warne.

Here is the story of how the Australian legend laid down a marker in the first ever running of the IPL.

Warne raises eyebrows with Rajasthan move

Widely considered as one of the greatest bowlers to have ever played the game, Australia leg-spinner Warne had called time on his international career back in 2008, when he was signed as captain for Rajasthan Royals for the first season of the IPL.

In the pre-season auction, Warne went for the equivalent $450,000 at the age of 37, raising plenty of eyebrows.

Warne joined a Rajasthan side which was put together with the smallest budget in the competition and knew he would be up against fellow titans of the game in the shape of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and MS Dhoni.

But the IPL quickly proved to be a thrilling and unpredictable competition as the unfancied Royals went on to defy all expectations.

Royals take initiative in regular season

It was not a positive start to the inaugural IPL season for Rajasthan, who began their campaign with a humbling nine-wicket defeat to Delhi Daredevils.

They made just 129 in their innings as Ravindra Jadeja top-scored with 29, while Warne failed to make an impact with the ball.

In response, though, Rajasthan laid down a marker in their first match in Jaipur to beat Kings XI Punjab by six wickets as Shane Watson took the initiative with the bat to strike an unbeaten 76.

That sparked a run of five successive wins across April and May and the Royals finished the regular season with 11 wins and only three defeats from 14 matches.

In the play-offs they had the perfect opportunity to show just how far they had come when drawn against their opening-day conquerors Delhi, who placed fourth.

It was a completely different contest to the opening-day encounter, as Rajasthan eased to a 105-run victory, courtesy of another half-century from Watson (52), who also finished with figures of 3-10 with the ball.

And while Watson's influence on Rajasthan's success was clear to see, so too were the leadership abilities of skipper Warne, who had also led by example with the ball.

Warne showed he could still cope with the pace and intensity of the sport's shortest format by claiming 16 wickets in his 14 regular-season appearances and Rajasthan, who many expected to be out of their depth in the IPL, were preparing for the competition's first final.

Pathan and Watson decide gripping final

Awaiting Rajasthan Royals in the first ever IPL final was a star-studded Chennai Super Kings side which had been assembled for $91 million at the start of the season.

At the time of the final, Super Kings skipper MS Dhoni was an icon in Indian cricket, having led his country to Twenty20 World Cup glory only a year beforehand.

Dhoni himself went for $1.5 million at the IPL auction and he played an integral role in the final, reaching 29 not out with the bat to help Chennai record a first-innings total of 163-5.

It was a solid but by no means insurmountable total and Rajasthan likely drew confidence from the fact that they had beaten Dhoni's side home and away during the regular season.

But Rajasthan's innings started on the back foot as they lost three wickets in the first seven overs of the game, having only put 42 runs on the board.

It looked to be plain sailing from there on in for Chennai, but a fightback from Yusuf Pathan and Watson changed the dynamic of the match.

The number four and five batters put together a partnership of 65 with Pathan exploding into life with 56 runs off 39 deliveries.

That levelled things once more and the responsibility fell to bowling pair Sohail Tanvir and who else but Warne to see the game out.

Both players reached nine not out to help Rajasthan to victory, with Tanvir striking the winning run from the final ball of the game, as Warne made his way halfway down the pitch.

The Australian captained the Royals for another four years, but his first season in charge in 2008 will go down in history as a fairytale campaign.

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