Intent, and class, separated Rajasthan Royals and Pune Warriors India when the two teams squared off in a key Indian Premier League match at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium in Jaipur. Pune had nothing left to play for, while Rajasthan, who were just off the top four, could still make the playoffs if they won all their remaining league games. What ensued was a listless Pune effort meeting a clinical Rajasthan and in the process the Royals found a new bowling star in the course of their 45-run win.
There's something very reassuring about Ajinkya Rahane at the crease. Equally, when Shane Watson is out there, you are fairly sure about what you're going to get. On the afternoon, the duo put together 94 runs in their contrasting styles after Rahul Dravid fell with the total on 29 in the fifth over. Rahane was classical and canny as he found the gaps with ease, and didn't need any big hits or slogs to maintain a strike rate of close to 130. Watson threw caution to the wind in his 31-ball 58, slamming six fours and four sixes. (Related read: Who is Ajit Chandila)
Watson fell in the 15th over, but Rahane was well entrenched, and with Rajasthan on 123 at the time, a score of around 160 seemed on the cards. The Royals eventually ended 10 better with Rahane batting till the last over before he was bowled by Angelo Mathews for a 47-ball 61. The Pune players' shoulders were already sagging, and a target of 171 already looked far too big. (Also see: Match pics)
When Pune began their reply - with Sourav Ganguly reinstated at the top of the order - a big start was needed. No such luck as little known Haryana off-spinner Ajit Chandila decided to take charge of the proceedings. Jesse Ryder and Ganguly were sent back off the fifth and sixth deliveries of the first over of the innings. And then, Chandila came back to claim a memorable hat-trick when he had Robin Uthappa stumped off the first delivery of his second over.
Any hopes that Pune had of making a fist of the chase were destroyed when Chandila, in his third over, sent Anustup Majumdar back, caught and bowled. Dravid chose to bowl Chandila out, and he ended with figures of four for 13. Johan Botha and Watson picked two wickets each and Shaun Tait got one.
One of the highlights of this one-sided encounter came when Rahul Sharma lifted Watson towards long-off in the 18th over. Though Botha had the catch, he was running backwards and would have crossed the boundary. Botha glanced back, saw Rahane in support, and relayed the ball to him before stepping across the ropes; Rahane was in perfect position to complete the catch.
Pune eventually managed to play out their overs, but only just, as they ended on 125 for nine. Pune's eighth consecutive loss sealed - this one by 45 runs.