Ross Taylor and Ashok Menaria have emerged key players for Rajasthan Royals; just as Shane Warne had visualised.
The New Zealander clubbed even the good deliveries and the left-handed local star came up with a well-executed innings to swing the Indian Premier League contest their team's way, leaving Pune Warriors a dejected lot.
Pune Warriors, put in, set Rajasthan Royals a target of 144. The chase had to be calculated since the pitch was slow but Warriors lacked the extra bowler to support leg-spinner Rahul Sharma, who waged a lone battle by claiming three wickets.
Warriors held the whip when Rajasthan Royals needed 52 runs from 30 balls and Yuvraj Singh tossed the ball to the ever-reliable Murali Kartik. But it was not his day. Kartik conceded 17 runs with Taylor clobbering him and putting Royals on road to pull off a hard-earned last-over victory by six wickets.
Taylor stayed to finish off the match. Leaving the task to another would have been perilous.
Taylor, dropped twice, and Menaria played their roles to perfection. Warriors was below par again, its bowling and fielding appalling when it mattered.
The brave hitting by Man-of-the-Match Taylor was the key aspect of Royals' win. He hit them clean and hard, the ball sailing into the stands. It was an ideal knock under the circumstances and placed Royals at the top of the table with 11 points from nine matches.
Two dismissals signified the character of the match. It took a crafty delivery to arrest the swagger of Robin Uthappa and an innocuous ball that consumed Rahul Dravid. Sharply contrasting dismissals that cast their spell on the way the innings progressed.
It hardly surprises when Uthappa decides to chuck away his wicket. But it pains when a Dravid does not make the bowler earn his wicket, even in this format. Dravid, the perfectionist, should have put away the ball that caused his downfall. The ball only found its way back to the bowler. It was a huge disappointment just as the floodlights glowed and the weather turned pleasant.
It was also a huge disappointment when Uthappa, an entertainer all the way, cast away his wicket in the afternoon. He was involved in a fascinating duel, a short one though, with Warne.
The Aussie welcomes batsmen who wish to dictate. He loves to dominate too. Here he was, tossing the ball and teasing the batsman. Uthappa was not overawed. He is never actually.
The spectators warmed up. The sun was harsh even at late afternoon but Uthappa brought them joy with his aggressive batting. He welcomed Warne with a reverse flick, and then swept and drove him. Uthappa got carried away.
Warne hit him on the pads thrice. It was interesting now for all, the teams and the audience.
When Warne returned, he again suffered a reverse sweep. The Aussie, however, had schemed well. The batsman had been set up nicely. Yet another reverse sweep from Uthappa but this time the ball kicked and a soft top edge saw the wicketkeeper scamper and pouch the ball. Uthappa was on his way and Warne was celebrating his artistry.
Uthappa and Manish Pandey laid the foundation for Warriors but the middle order failed to match the effort. When Yuvraj was run out from a deflection by bowler Siddharth Trivedi and Pandey fell in quick succession, Warriors had clearly lost the initiative.
A desperate Mithun Manhas helped himself to a four and a six but setting a tough target remained a dream for Warriors as it succumbed to Taylor's magnificent assault.
Keywords: IPL 2011