Pune: After two defeats, Pune Warriors India got off the mark in IPL 6 following an efficient performance from the bowlers set up a seven-wicket win over Rajasthan Royals in Pune on Thursday night. Once Rajasthan were kept to 145, Pune's new opening pair of Robin Uthappa and Aaron Finch set the tone for a brisk chase before Finch's stroke-filled 64 ensured there were no major hiccups in grabbing their first win in three outings.
For a team that made 99 for 9 in their last match, a chase of 146 for the loss of just two wickets was a huge achievement. Uthappa and Finch put on the first fifty-run opening stand of the season as they motored to 58 in 4.5 overs, peppering the midwicket and long-on boundaries.
Finch made his presence felt immediately for Pune, smiting Sreesanth for six down the ground. The rookie left-arm spinner Harmeet Singh was taken apart in the third over which cost 17 as Uthappa smacked two fours and Finch launched a huge six over long-on. Uthappa then tore into Sreesanth: the first ball was sent into the stands over long-on, the third was creamed past extra cover for four and the free hit was swung over deep square leg for six. Twenty-one runs came in that fourth over and Pune had raced to 51 for 0.
By then, the required rate had come down to 5.93, very manageable by Twenty20 standards. Uthappa was cut off on 32 by a great catch from Rahul Dravid at short midwicket, but Finch displayed his trademark power-hitting and reached his maiden IPL fifty with a six off Kevon Cooper. He and Ross Taylor, who was promoted to No. 3, put on 46 before the latter swung Harmeet to Brad Hodge just inside the deep midwicket boundary. Finch slowed after crossing fifty and was bowled by James Faulkner with 15 needed to get. Yuvraj Singh (28*) finished the chase with eight deliveries remaining.
Earlier, Pune had pulled the innings back with a flutter of wickets with the spin pair of Rahul Sharma and Yuvraj combining to derail Rajasthan after an 81-run stand between Dravid (54) and Ajinkya Rahane (30). There was no late assault from the visitors, who were left to rue a total of 145 for 5.
Dravid had won the toss and had no decision in deciding to bat, but found himself in to face the second ball of the match after Bhuvneshwar Kumar prized out Kusal Perera with a sharp inswinger. A sweet drive past mid-off for four off Ashok Dinda got Dravid purring, and he followed up by steering and flicking Angelo Mathews for delectable boundaries. Overs six to eight were boundary-less, but Dravid and Rahane made up for that drought in the ninth and tenth. Mitchell Marsh was driven and flicked with ease, and Mathews lofted over mid-on as Dravid and Rahane kept the fans cheering and the run rate moved past seven per over.
Mathews provided the breakthrough with a sharp diving catch at extra cover when Rahane drove uppishly at Sharma, and soon after Stuart Binny lofted Yuvraj to long-on. Binny's wicket came during another barren run of four overs without a boundary, and the loss of Dravid to a reflex catch from Taylor at cover dented Rajasthan further. Dishant Yagnik injected some momentum into the innings by dabbing and reverse-sweeping Yuvraj for fours, but his overzealousness resulted in a top-edged reverse scoop to short third man on 12. Sharma bowled out with economic figures of 2 for 16.
Faulker (19*) and Hodge (22*) squeezed 33 off the last three overs, including 15 off the last bowled by Bhuvneshwar, but a total of 145 proved insufficient.