Rajasthan Royals, under Rahul Dravid's leadership, made smart use of the weapons in its arsenal to register a seven-wicket win against Pune Warriors at the Subrata Roy Sahara stadium here on Tuesday.
The Pune Warriors batsmen were kept on a leash by Shaun Tait (three for 13) and the target was chased down by Royals without breaking into a sweat once Shane Watson (90 not out off 51 balls) took charge.
The visitors crossed the finish line with 22 balls to spare, rattling up 126 for three in 16.2 overs and increased its points tally to 12 from 12 games and now a playoff berth seems to be in sight.
For Pune Warriors, it is the other way round as the team gave another demonstration of strange tactics on home turf. Seniors like Sourav Ganguly (14 runs off 18) and Robin Uthappa (13 runs off 19) pulled the side down with some impulsive strokeplay.
The hard-hitting Angelo Mathews and in-form Mithun Manhas came way down the order and failed to make an impact. Strike bowlers Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Murali Kartik kept attacking but without a healthy total to defend, could only delay the inevitable. Steve Smith's amazing attempt to take a catch was the only sparkling moment in Pune's challenge.
His anticipation at point got rid of opener Ajinkya Rahane; then Smith's balance and quick thinking on the fence almost produced a magical moment as he juggled the ball thrice between hops on both sides of the rope.
Watson had slammed Kartik to long-on. Television replays confirmed that Smith had crossed over once and the umpire signalled a six.
Dravid's exit in the sixth over meant the Royals openers had misfired for once in IPL-V. But, Watson's strong-arm methods ensured there was no anxiety for teammates. He counter-attacked with brutal drives straight down the ground and cleared the fence at will, stepping out to the spinners, with effortless heaves.
Menaria punched through the offside and worked the ball around the pads in a delightful 56-run third-wicket stand with the Aussie.
Earlier, Ganguly won the toss and flexed his arms when Johan Botha came on to bowl in the fourth over, stepping inside the line for a regal cut to the point fence.
The skipper made a quiet exit after consuming 18 balls to make 14, spooning a catch to square-leg attempting an adventurous pull against Tait's pace and bounce.
Clarke then fell to Stuart Binny and Pune had lost two distinguished batsmen in the Power Play overs and was 56 for two at the halfway stage. Two hits into the long-on stands by new face Anustup Majumdar sparked some celebrations. Uthappa lived dangerously, rapped on the backfoot trying to reverse sweep, then tried a wild slash and nicked behind. Owais Shah ran out Angelo Mathews to complete the misery.
Dravid retained the stranglehold on the Pune batsmen's ambitions with frequent bowling changes.
Six bowlers were used and they did their bit as part of a wider game plan.
Binny and Botha denied batsmen pace off the wicket, mixed their deliveries and picked up a wicket each.
The Royals bowlers stuck to their tasks as Pune suffered another crushing loss at home.
Pune Warriors: S. Ganguly c Ankeet b Tait 14 (18b, 1x4), M. Clarke lbw b Binny 16 (18b, 1x4), R. Uthappa c Yagnik b Tait 13 (19b), A. Majumdar b Botha 30 (20b, 1x4, 2x6), S. Smith (not out) 18 (22b, 1x4), A. Mathews (run out) 11 (12b), M. Manhas b Tait 11 (9b, 1x4), W. Parnell (not out) 2 (2b); Extras (lb-7, w-3): 10; Total (for six wkts. in 20 overs): 125.
Fall of wickets: 1-30 (Ganguly), 2-35 (Clarke), 3-77 (Majumdar), 4-83(Uthappa), 5-107 (Mathews), 6-122 (Manhas).
Rajasthan Royals bowling: Ankeet 2-0-20-0, Tait 4-0-13-3, Watson 4-0-28-0, Botha 4-0-25-1, Binny 3-0-12-1, Trivedi 3-0-20-0.
Rajasthan Royals: R. Dravid c Clarke b Parnell 14 (16b, 2x4), A. Rahane c Smith b Bhuvneshwar 0 (3b), S. Watson (not out) 90 (51b, 10x4, 4x6), A. Menaria c Manhas b Clarke 18 (21b, 1x4), O. Shah (not out) 4 (7b); Total (for three wkts. in 16.2 overs): 126.
Fall of wickets: 1-4 (Rahane), 2-49 (Dravid), 3-105 (Menaria).
Pune Warriors bowling: Parnell 2-0-12-1, Bhuvneshwar 3-0-17-1, Kartik 3-0-32-0, Nehra 3-0-33-0, Mathews 3-0-15-0, Clarke 2-0-12-1, Smith 0.2-0-5-0.
Man-of-the-match: S. Watson.
Keywords: IPL V