Jaipur: Rajasthan Royals are in a habit of achieving difficult tasks with relative ease. They did the same against Pune Warriors on Sunday, chasing an imposing total of 179 with one ball to spare and moving to the fourth spot in the points table.
Considering the amount of runs to be scored, it was expected that Shane Watson would open the batting for Rajasthan with Ajinkya Rahane (67 off 48), but Rahul Dravid (58 off 40) decided to put himself first in the firing line. He and Rahane then displayed some of the most exquisite strokes one would see in a Twenty20 match.
Both took a special liking to Krishnakant Upadhyay, the Railway medium-pacer playing his first game for Pune, hitting him for 29 runs in his three overs. Dravid hit two consecutive fours to bring up Rajasthan's fifty in six overs. The duo batted with such precision that they didn't let the required rate go beyond their reach.
Dravid brought up his fifty with a straight six off Rahul Sharma but departed while trying to repeat the same shot. Like Dravid, Rahane too brought up his half-century in style, dispatching Angelo Mathews over the extra cover fence for six. He continued his fine touch, hitting Mathews for two more boundaries in the same over, with Shane Watson (5 off 5) completing the 21-run over with a square cut for four. But Watson departed trying to attempt the same stroke against Wayne Parnell.
Rahane holed out to Sharma, who took a fine catch, running in from the deep midwicket fence. Stuart Binny (32 off 13) replaced Rahane and went about his business from ball one, cutting Sharma's short and wide delivery for four and sending the bowler over the deep midwicket fence for a huge six.
Binny continued his march as he hit a straight six to Bhuvneshwar Kumar in the penultimate over, and then hit the winning four to Parnell off the second last ball.
Earlier, Robin Uthappa (54 off 41) and Aaron Finch (45 off 32) gave Pune a rollicking start, sharing 97 runs in 65 balls. Both the batsmen were aggressive from the outset, making full use of the fielding restriction in the first six overs.
Uthappa started from he had left against the Royal Challengers Bangalore, displaying his array of strokes. Finch too was at his attacking best, hitting both along the ground and in the air with equal ease.
Rajasthan skipper Dravid although used as many as four bowlers inside the mandatory power play, the move yielded no result as Finch and Uthappa treated them with utter disdain.
The onslaught started from the third over when Ajit Chandila was clobbered for two consecutive fours by Uthappa, followed by a hit to the leg side by Finch. Watson was brought into the attack but he too went for plenty as Uthappa hit him for three boundaries.
Mitchell Marsh provided the late flourish to the Pune innings with a 21-ball 35. He took a few deliveries to get his eye in but tonked the ball hard after getting set, smashing three massive sixes and two fours.