Taylor leads Rajasthan to top spot
Rajasthan Royals 144 for 4 beat Pune Warriors 143 for 7 (Uthappa 35) by six wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
It was a tale of contrasting performances from two Pune Warriors spinners. Rahul Sharma threatened to win it for them but Murali Kartik lost the plot and Rajasthan Royals' Ross Taylor seized the moment, with valuable support from Ajinkya Rahane, to clinch a thrilling win. Rajasthan moved to the top of the table while Pune stayed frozen at rock bottom.
With 52 runs required from six overs, Rahul bowled a gem of a maiden over that included the wicket of the aggressive Ashok Menaria to end his spell with figures of 4-1-13-3. However, Kartik gifted two short balls and a full toss in the next over and Taylor looted 17 runs with the help of two fours and a six. Suddenly, the equation came down to 29 from 18 and despite two relatively disciplined overs from Alphonso Thomas and Jerome Taylor, Rajasthan just needed the odd boundary here and there to squeeze past the line.
Two boundary hits from Rahane and Ross Taylor sealed the contest. When they needed 24 runs from 14 balls, Rahane sliced a slower length ball from Jerome Taylor to the point boundary and when they required 17 from 11, Ross Taylor slugged a length delivery from Thomas deep into the midwicket stands. Game over.
Pune will look back and rue the reprieve they offered Ross Taylor. When Rajasthan needed 32 from 20, Taylor, on 31 then, heaved Thomas to left of deep midwicket where Nathan McCullum did all the hard work to get there but couldn't hold on. He lunged out to take it but it bounced off his palms as he fell to the ground and bounded off his chest and right thigh.
It was that kind of night for Pune. Only Rahul sparkled with the ball and almost single-handedly pushed them to the cusp of victory. His evening changed with a long hop in his second over, the seventh of the innings. Rahul Dravid, who again failed to convert a start, pulled it back to him and Rahul started to choke the run-flow with a slew of bouncing top spinners. However, Kartik had a horror day, leaking 41 runs from his four overs.
Pune will also look back at their batting effort and wish if they could have done a bit more. The top order flattered to deceive. The contest of the afternoon was between Shane Warne and Robin Uthappa. It had an overload of skill, adrenaline, ego, canniness and a dash of foolhardiness. It lasted eight deliveries but it encapsulated everything that is good about Twenty20. It had an aggressive batsman intent on attack and an ambitious bowler focused on hunting down his prey. Throw in an umpire ready to brave ferocious appeals and rule on the side of conservatism, and you had a thoroughly entertaining package.
Uthappa unfurled the reverse-sweep and conventional sweep to collect two fours. Warne ripped a big leg break next, starting from just about leg stump - part of the ball was outside leg - and it beat the bat to strike the pad. It was the start of Warne's increasingly vocal tussle with the umpire Shavir Tarapore. He yelped out a huge appeal but Tarapore perhaps thought it pitched just outside leg and turned it down. Warne looped the next delivery on a length but Uthappa stretched forward to slog-sweep it over midwicket.
Three boundaries in four balls and the heat was well and truly on Warne, who responded with a front-of-hand skidder that landed on the line of leg stump and just about straightened to hit the pad. Warne screamed, Tarapore stayed frozen and Uthappa survived. Warne got the final delivery to skid on towards the leg stump, Uthappa was caught in a tangle and yet again, got stuck on the pad. Replays suggested it would have clipped leg stump but you could understand why the umpire didn't give it.
Warne removed himself from Tarapore's end and appeared at Simon Taufel's in the ninth over. Uthappa again reverse-swept the first ball to the boundary but Warne shortened the length off the next and got it to skid and bounce towards middle. Uthappa ended up top-edging the swat to the keeper. Uthappa's exit was sandwiched between the dismissals of Jesse Ryder, stumped off Johan Botha, and Yuvraj Singh, run out after he backed up too far at the non-striker's end, and it derailed the innings.
Sriram Veera is a staff writer at ESPNcricinfo