Before heading into the clash against Rajasthan Royals, Pune Warriors had lost as many as 11 previous IPL games. It is the kind of record any franchise would dread of. The fact that the Royals went into the game having won their last two matches in impressive fashion would not have helped Pune’s cause. If anything, there were simply expected to lose, which means there were actually no expectations from them when they took the field against the Royals at their home ground, the Sahara Stadium in Pune. Considering all the circumstances, Pune did a commendable job to pull off their first win of the season, and first in the IPL after many games.
While Pune were equally good with bat and ball on the day, it was their performance with the former that laid the solid foundation for their attractive win. Having decided to bat first, the Royals were looking for a stable start. Instead, Pune drew first blood when Bhuvneshwar Kumar trapped Kushal Perera lbw off the very first ball of the innings. The Royals recovered very well from that courtesy a valiant partnership between Ajinkya Rahane and skipper Rahul Dravid, but Pune fought back in the nick of time.
Rahane and Dravid were going along very nicely when the tall left-arm spinner Rahul Sharma dismissed Rahane, the latter yet again falling after getting a start. With the Royals not having any superstars in the squad it is essential for Rahane to play more substantial knocks. He has been getting starts consistently, but the time has come for him to convert those handy knocks into match-winning ones. It is clear now that he is among the team’s more dangerous batsmen, and Rahane must start living up to the billing provided to him.
Once Rahane was out, the Royals struggled for momentum, and this is where Pune snatched away the game. Dravid batted very nicely for another half-century. He did his job of holding one end up, but the hitters couldn’t accelerate towards the end, as a result of which the Royals ended up with a well-below par score. Stuart Binny could not repeat his heroics from the last match while Brad Hodge didn’t score the runs at the rate required. The slow rate of scoring is an aspect the Royals need to look into rather seriously. Without sounding too harsh, it also must be mentioned that Dravid and Rahane aren’t helping the team’s cause by scoring at just over 100.
The spinners did a wonderful job for Pune, Rahul Sharma and Yuvraj Singh picking up a couple of wickets each while not being expensive. With the bat as well, Pune were much more proficient than the Royals, for a change. Robin Uthappa gave the team a much-needed rollicking start, following which Aaron Finch played a mature hand, mixing caution with aggression, and Yuvraj Singh made it the perfect finish by slamming a couple of biggies.
Turning point of the game: Rahane, Binny and Dravid’s dismissals within 12 runs of each other turned the game around.
--By A Cricket Analyst