Rajasthan run past Pune in thriller


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Jaipur: Both teams started well with the bat, but the difference between the Rajasthan Royals and Pune Warriors was in the finishing. That's the reason why the hosts managed to maintain their unbeaten record at home.

They went to fourth in the points table, for which they should thank their batsmen. It wasn’t a match where the winner could afford to blink.

Chasing a mammoth 179-run target, Rajasthan’s openers Rahul Dravid and Ajinkya Rahane played all the right shots as Aaron Finch’s bowlers began to flinch. Both right-handers knew that they had a mountain to climb, and they ensured that Pune’s bowlers were beaten to the ropes. If Dravid drove with élan, Rahane cut the ball with equal finesse as Rajasthan made sure that they were never too far behind the run rate.

84/0 after 10. The hosts were on track.

After bringing up his fifty with a six, Dravid knew that he had too continue in the same vein. He fell for 58, while trying to force the pace, with Marsh taking the catch at long off off Mathews. That said and done, he had built a solid platform for the batsmen to follow. What would Rahane & Co. do with the remaining deliveries?

Like his skipper, Rahane brought up his fifty with the ball crossing the ropes, and used the confidence to go after Angelo Mathews off the remaining deliveries. 21 runs came off the 14th over. Shane Watson (5) came and went, but it was clear that Rahane was the wicket Pune wanted.

They would get it.

Right after he sent a delivery to the midwicket fence, Rahane edged Bhuvneshwar Kumar to keeper Mahesh Rawat who took it on the bounce. However, Rajasthan’s highest scorer in the game failed to capitalize on the life, as he got down on one knee to loft the ball on the on side. Rahul Sharma put in a dive, to put the match back on an even keel.

Stuart Binny made the most of some ordinary bowling from Rahul Sharma, to help the Royals milk 14 from the over. Like Watson, Hodge played five deliveries, before falling while going for a big shot. In came baby-faced Sanju Samson. What would he do?

The youngster would hit two fours, one a cover drive and the other a deliberate edge past the keeper. 18 needed from 12. Bhuvneshwar Kumar ran in to bowl the penultimate over, and was taken for 13 off the first five deliveries, before sending in a last-ball yorker. 5 needed from 6.

Binny took a single, only to find Samson pulling the ball to Udit Birla at short midwicket. James Faulkner took two, before taking a single to bring Binny back on strike. 1 needed from 2. The Bangalorean struck a four, and went up right away. Rajasthan would win by five wickets with one ball remaining.

Not too sure if they thought, that the win would be possible after Pune took first strike with the bat.

Pune Warriors’ openers Robin Uthappa and Aaron Finch made full use of the width on offer, piercing the gaps, to bring up boundaries at regular intervals. Rahul Dravid could only watch as the two Pune batsmen, drove, punched and swept their way to 50 off just the 5th over. Bowling changes followed one after the other, and Stuart Binny managed to have Uthappa caught by Ajit Chandila, only to find that the man had one foot behind the ropes, as he completed the jump.

They would move to 92/0 after 10.

Thankfully for the hosts, Aaron Finch dragged a delivery from Kevon Cooper onto his stumps. But then Yuvraj Singh made sure that Pune would continue to look beyond the boundary for their numbers. As expected, Robin Uthappa brought up a well-deserved 50 with a shot down the ground. Three balls later, Yuvraj Singh fell while taking the aerial route.

Shane Watson sent down a string of dot balls, to put the pressure on Pune. In the following over, Faulkner rapped Mitchell Marsh on the pads, and the Australian responded to Uthappa’s call for a run. Rajasthan’s wicket-keeper, young Sanju Samson picked up the ball, took a glove off, and took aim at the stumps.

He didn’t miss, and Uthappa was run out by a mile.

Mathews and Marsh ambled along before breaking free at Kevon Cooper’s expense in the penultimate over. Marsh struck a six by clearing square leg, where a fan decided that he would keep the ball. He took a single off the new ball that was brought in, before the officials manage to retrieve the original one back from the stands.

Marsh proceeded to hit the old ball down the ground for six, where his captain Aaron Finch caught the ball by getting up from his seat in the dugout. After losing Mathews in the final over, Marsh finished the innings with a great hit down the ground to power Pune to a total of 178/4.

It wouldn’t be enough.

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