Pune Warriors made five changes for the contest but failed to transform its wretched run in this season’s Indian Premier League.
Defending a total of 178, it ran into a refreshingly different Rahul Dravid at the SMS Stadium and lost by five wickets.
Thanks to a collective effort, Rajasthan Royals maintained its unbeaten record at home with six wins in six.
Dravid outpaced Ajinkya Rahane, hit the ball on the rise, across the line and over the ropes. It was a very different Dravid. The crowds loved it. How often would Dravid have hit a six to reach his half century?
His 98-run opening stand with Rahane was a strong foundation for Royals in a close-finish match.
Dravid’s dismissal to a desperate shot brought Rahane and Shane Watson together and the match slipped out of Pune Warriors’ grasp when Angelo Mathews conceded 21 in the 14th over. It was a critical phase and the Warriors paid for it.
Rahane built on the confidence that Dravid radiated and the chase culminated in a last-over verdict with Stuart Binny, with support from Sanju Vishwanadh, giving the fishing touches in style.
A straight six by Binny off Bhuvneshwar Kumar in the 19th over proved a priceless strike as the home team won with a ball to spare.
Bowling first, Royals ran into a blistering Robin Uthappa and Aaron Finch. It was the right decision to bat and Warriors prospered on the strength of an aggressive approach at the top.
Some of the shots, especially square of the wicket, were pre-determined and the Royals bowlers hardly helped their cause by constantly pitching short.
Dravid had a tough time from the time Ajit Chandila came a cropper. Switching his bowlers and the field, the Royals skipper was a busy man.
The plan was to frustrate the Warriors in the initial stages but nothing worked in his favour. The batsmen had marked the bowlers and the areas and scored in a canter, picking gaps and the aerial route at will.
Finch struck clean, picking the length early, always comfortably placed to create gaps, playing the ball late.
Uthappa attacked and gained. The bowlers made little impact and the opener went about his job with a target in mind.
Not the expected finish
He was as relentless as Finch, even though their start did not attain the desired destination. Finch, Uthappa and Yuvraj Singh were out with the innings in its 16th over.
Mathews, known to strike big, and Mitchell Marsh took up the responsibility and clobbered the bowlers in an entertaining stand of 41.
Marsh hit robustly, his three sixes soaring into the crowd, once the ball staying back with one of the fans, a prized possession to carry home.