It's been an agonising wait, but Pune Warriors India finally found their element against Rajasthan Royals in a seven-wicket win, claiming their first points in the Pepsi Indian Premier League 2013 at the Subroto Roy Sahara Stadium in Pune on Thursday (April 11). Pune chased down the target of 146 with considerable ease, with Aaron Finch (64 off 53) their star of the day.
Ahead of this clash, Allan Donald, the Pune head coach, had asked his players to take responsibility and "break the shackles" and that was precisely what they did. Finch, who was replacing the injured Marlon Samuels, and Robin Uthappa, the openers, started Pune off with some violent batsmanship. They handed Sreesanth a hammering, taking him for 28 runs in just two overs. In the 19 minutes their partnership lasted, they put up 58 off just 29 balls, providing Pune with a solid start - exactly what they lacked in the two matches they had lost. (Also read: Mathews, Finch credit changed batting approach to victory)
Uthappa, who had scored 32 off just 16, walked back to a brilliant, one-handed catch by Rahul Dravid at midwicket, but he'd served his purpose. With his dismissal, the run-scoring dropped, but Pune needed less than a-run-a-ball, which seemed to deflate Rajasthan. With Ross Taylor for company, Finch carried on with cuts, slogs, flicks and the rest of the ensemble, albeit at a slower rate. Pune took their time, taking care to not lose wickets in a rush.
Taylor (17) fell to Harmeet Singh, when trying to clear deep midwicket, but Yuvraj Singh walked in to give Finch company. Having completed a half-century, Finch ended up getting bowled off James Faulkner, but with Yuvraj making an unbeaten 28, Pune routed Rajasthan all the same.
Earlier, Dravid and Ajinkya Rahane gave Rajasthan, who were missing Shane Watson through injury, a powerful start to their innings. There was a wicket off the very first ball of the day. Bhuvneshwar Kumar, finding some swing with the new ball, had Kushal Perera walking back with a delivery that moved back in. However, Dravid walked in at No. 3, and for a brief while, Rajasthan looked as though they were in for a big total. (Related read: Statistical highlights from the game)
Dravid, the oldest Indian player to play in the IPL, seemed to have everything you'd want in a Twenty20 player, without the slogging. There were the classic cover drives and inimitable flicks off the wrist. Rahane complimented him well at the other end. (Match in pics)
Angelo Mathews, the Pune captain, tried rotating the bowlers, but it was far from effective, with Rajasthan's run-rate hovering around eight after five overs. Mathews eventually summoned his spinners, Rahul Sharma and Yuvraj, and it had the desired effect. The boundaries dried up a bit, and slowly, the wickets started to fall.
The second-wicket stand between Dravid and Rahane, having yielded 81, was broken when Rahane (30) was dismissed thanks to a stunning catch by Mathews at short cover. A jittery Stuart Binny didn't last long and Dravid followed suit two overs later, having completed his second half-century of the tournament. Given space in the off, Dravid (54) tried to slam Yuvraj through the covers but Taylor plucked out a handsome one-handed catch.
Dishant Yagnik got out to a needless shot, leaving Rajasthan reeling at 106 for 5. However, with four overs left, Brad Hodge, who was dropped earlier, combined with Faulkner to put up an unbeaten 39-run stand for the sixth wicket. There were some effective slogs, especially of Bhuvneshwar, whose last two overs went for 29. Rajasthan eventually managed 145 for 5, but on the day, it was far from sufficient.