Sourav Ganguly may or may not have been the reason behind Pune Warriors India's pathetic performance in the fifth edition of the Indian Premier League, but his absence certainly didn't help the team's performance. Royal Challengers Bangalore were by far the better team in the rain-delayed match at the Warriors' home. Nothing at all went the way of the misfiring Pune side on the night, as they sank to a comprehensive 35-run loss.
Steve Smith, the new captain, won the toss, chose to field, but got hardly anything right after that. Chris Gayle and Tillakaratne Dilshan were on fire to start with, scoring at 11 an over in the powerplay. Rahul Sharma and Angelo Mathews brought some sanity to the proceedings, sending Gayle back for a 31-ball 57 (with three fours and six sixes) and Virat Kohli for just nine. But Dilshan was still out there, and that meant the Bangalore scoring rate didn't really dip.
It was a bit baffling to see Saurabh Tiwary walking in ahead of AB de Villiers though. De Villiers has been brilliant throughout the IPL, but Bangalore might have wanted to give Tiwary a hit before the business end of the tournament. Tiwary did get some crucial time in the middle, but as he scored an unbeaten 36 from 30 balls, Bangalore fell behind somewhat. Dilshan eventually fell for a 44-ball 53. De Villiers only got four balls to face, smacking a last-ball six to take Bangalore to 173 for three.
For his part, Smith profited from Bangalore's call to push Tiwary in at number four. But then, questions will be asked about his rotation of bowlers. Mathews bowled at an economy rate of 4.66, but got only three overs, while Michael Clarke's only over cost him just five runs. Maybe, just maybe, Krishnakant Upadhyay or Bhuvaneshwar Kumar needn't have bowled their quota of overs.
In any case, none of that really mattered once the Warriors from Pune took guard. Zaheer Khan accounted for Mohnish Mishra and Manish Pandey in the first over itself. Michael Clarke took till the fourth over to hole out in the deep. Robin Uthappa looked good while he lasted before being stumped off Muttiah Muralidaran for a 23-ball 38, while Anustup Majumdar played a few impressive strokes in his 31.
All of this meant that the responsibility was back on Smith's shoulders. He chose to hold himself back till No.7 in the batting order, probably hoping the top order would do enough for him to smash the winning runs. Not quite. When he came in, Pune were 84 for five, with 89 left to get off 53 balls. It wasn't completely beyond Smith's reach, but he didn't have one of his better days, and the lower middle order also didn't look like it wanted to hang around.
In the end, Smith failed to tee off at all, finishing with a sedate 24 from 25 balls. Pune ended well short, as Bangalore pushed themselves past the competition to third place on the table. As for the Warriors, they remain just above Deccan Chargers in eighth spot.