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The Rajasthan Royals decimated an out of form Pune Warriors side by 7 wickets with more than 3 overs to spare, condemning them to their 6th consecutive defeat in the Indian Premier League this season. The Pune Warriors failed to take advantage of what Sourav Ganguly at the toss called a "good pitch", posting just 125/6 in their 20 overs. All their batsmen got starts with each of the top 7 getting into double figures but only one man getting past his teens. That honour went to Anustup Majumdar who top scored with 30, with the Rajasthan bowlers dominating the first innings with some high quality wicket-to-wicket bowling. Shaun Tait was the pick of them, finishing his 4 overs with 3 wickets for 13, and one couldn't help but wonder if the Royals had called up the Aussie quick far too late in this season's IPL. The target was never really going to challenge the Royals, who raced home on the back of a powerful unbeaten 90 from the incredible Shane Watson. The win takes the Royals back into the top four in the IPL table and gives them a chance of staking a claim for a play-off berth.
Two former roommates, each of whom captained India, collide in what promises to be an absorbing contest at the Subrata Roy Sahara Stadium in Pune as Sourav Ganguly's Warriors entertain Rahul Dravid's Rajasthan Royals. While the Warriors' chances of making the knock-out rounds have evaporated following 5 consecutive defeats, Rajasthan's hopes were reignited at the weekend as they ended their 4 match losing run with a vital win against the Kings XI Punjab on a quick pitch in Mohali.
There were minimal changes to the line-up from both teams with only injuries forcing players onto the sidelines. Ashok Dinda's side strain saw his return to the treatment table with Ashish Nehra recalled to the side in his place, while Rajasthan called up Owais Shah back into their playing eleven after Brad Hodge picked up an injury while fielding in the last game. The Warriors had one more change up their sleeve with 28-year old Bengal batsman Anustup Majumdar coming in for Manish Pandey.
Michael Clarke and Sourav Ganguly were the surprise duo opening the batting in this game for Pune as the side kept fiddling with their order. Ganguly benefitted from a dropped chance off Watson, but failed to make the extra life count with Shaun Tait bouncing him out for a slow 14 from 18 balls. There were no fireworks from the other end either with Michael Clarke trapped leg before by Stuart Binny for 16. At the end of 8 overs the Pune Warriors had posted just 45 runs for the loss of their openers.
The Pune batsmen finally decided to get a move on in the 11th over with Majumdar show casing his burgeoning talent with a couple of maximums off Ankeet Chavan. However, the experienced Johan Botha had that little bit more about him and he removed the belligerent rookie for a 20-ball 30. In the very next over the returning Shaun Tait reaffirmed Royals' supremacy by having Robin Uthappa caught behind for 13. At the end of 14 overs, Pune were in a spot of bother at 87/4 and really needed to get a move on if they were going to post a competitive total.
The big hits that Pune desperately needed never arrived, and when Angelo Mathews was run out 11 the writing appeared to be on the wall. In the final over the raw pace of Shaun Tait knocked out Mithun Manhas' off-stumped to send the veteran batsman back to the hutch for just 10. That magical over conceded just 3 runs as Pune were restricted to a paltry 125/6.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar, easily Pune's find of the season, gave the hosts the perfect start, knocking over Ajinkya Rahane for a three ball duck, brilliantly caught by a diving Steve Smith at backward point. With the new ball swinging around a touch it was slightly surprising to see Murali Kartik brought into the attack in the 3rd over. Shane Watson took the opportunity to put some runs on the board picking up a boundary and two maximums to get the Royals innings moving. The second of those sixes included an amazing juggling act from Steve Smith on the long-on boundary, but the umpires deemed his effort from four feet behind the boundary illegal. Watson continued to dominate the powerplay, but lost his partner Rahul Dravid on the final ball of the 6th over with Parnell deceiving the veteran Indian batsman with a slower ball.
The reliable Ashok Menaria joined Watson out in the middle, but it was the Aussie who was taking complete charge of the contest, smashing Ashish Nehra for 16 runs in the 9th over. At the half-way stage of the chase the Royals were 79/2 and well on their way to an easy win.
The runs continued to flow unabated from Watson's blade as he raced into the 70s to bring the asking rate to round about 3 an over. Menaria tried to wrap things up in hurry, but perished to the gentle left-arm spin of Michael Clarke, who had him caught at midwicket for 18. At the end of 15 overs, the Royals had powered their way to 112/3, leaving them needing just another 14 to win in 5 overs.
Shane Watson saw his team comfortably past the finish line, powering his way to an unbeaten 90 from just 51 balls to record an emphatic 7 wicket win with 22 balls to spare.
The Pune Warriors will continue to play good hosts when they entertain the Royal Challengers Bangalore this coming Friday, while the Rajasthan Royals will look to keep their winning run going when they take on the reigning champions Chennai Super Kings a day earlier at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium in Jaipur. That match will be absolutely crucial in deciding which team makes it to the play-offs.
Pune Warriors: M Clarke, S Ganguly (c), R Uthappa (wk), S Smith, M Manhas, A Majumdar, A Mathews, W Parnell, B Kumar, M Kartik, A Nehra.
Rajasthan Royals: R Dravid (c), A Rahane, S Watson, D Yagnik (wk), A Menaria, O Shah, S Binny, J Botha, A Chavan, S Tait, S Trivedi.
Pune Warriors 125/6 (20 overs, 6.25rpo)
A Majumdar 30 (20) S Tait 3-14
S Smith 18* (22) S Binny 1-12
Rajasthan Royals 126/3 (16.2 overs, 6.25rpo)
S Watson 90 (51) M Clarke 1-12
A Menaria 18 (21) W Parnell 1-12
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