The game between Rajasthan Royals and Pune Warriors on Sunday at the Sawai Man Singh Stadium in Jaipur was a rather evenly contested one, with both sides putting up credible performances with the bat. But, it was Rajasthan Royals, who came up with the goods at opportune moments during the game to sneak ahead and continue their winning run at home even as Pune Warriors succumbed to their seventh loss in a row.
Batting first, Pune had got off to a sensational start; Robin Uthappa and Aaron Finch featuring in a stroke-filled partnership. In an otherwise distraught season, Uthappa and Finch have been the two men who have kept Pune’s flag flying high to some extent. However,they have rarely fired as a pair. On Sunday, that finally happened, and the results were there for everyone to see. Both Uthappa and Finch played some superb strokes and, at the halfway stage of their innings, it seemed as if Pune would run away to a match-winning score.
As they have often done in the past, this time as well Pune threw away a great opportunity to put opposition under pressure. Once Finch departed after a highly attractive innings, Pune just could not maintain the momentum. Yuvraj Singh registered yet another failure. His lack of form has been a big impediment for Pune right through the season, and it continued to be the same on Sunday as well. Under the circumstances, Pune needed Uthappa to carry on, but he got run out to put ever further pressure on his side. Mitchell Marsh struggled unbelievably at the start of the innings, but made amends for it with some big hits late in the day to give his side a fair chance of winning.
To stay on target, the Royals needed to get off to a highly confident start. Considering the required run rate was on the higher side, many were surprised to see Rahul Dravid walk in with Ajinkya Rahane ahead of Shane Watson. Yet again though, Dravid proved how good a player he is when it comes to adapting to situations and gauging conditions. Well aware that the ball will come on to the bat, Dravid strode in and played some fluent strokes to set things on the way. Not for the first time, Dravid and Rahane complemented each other very well, and matched one another stroke for stroke.
Even after Dravid fell, Rahane continued to lead the charge for the Royals with an attractive innings. There was brief flutter for the hosts when a couple of wickets fell quickly, and the game got a bit too close for comfort for them. Stuart Binny though, yet again, showed his value to the side with a brilliant cameo that turned the game totally in the Royals favour, and took them to victory as well. It was a game in which the bowling from both sides was pedestrian. But, on a pitch fit for batting, the Royals had the better resources.
Turning point of the game: The brilliant 98-run opening stand between Dravid and Rahane.
--By A Cricket Analyst