Watson and Tait crush insipid Pune
Rajasthan Royals 126 for 3 (Watson 90*) beat Pune Warriors 125 for 6 (Majumdar 30, Tait 3-13) by seven wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Shaun Tait set it up and Shane Watson finished the job in clinical fashion. Rajasthan Royals delivered a seven-wicket drubbing to a low on morale Pune Warriors and moved to fourth in the points table. Warriors looking to reverse a five-match losing streak, struggled against restrictive Royals bowling to post 125, but lacked the firepower to cause a scare. After an impressive start to the tournament, they limped out of the race for the playoffs.
Royals conceded just five fours - the least in a completed innings this season - and were spearheaded by Tait, who took 3 for 13. Unlike Royals, who duly opened with the aggressive Watson, Warriors saved their power hitters for the middle order. Sourav Ganguly promoted himself to open after, curiously, coming in at No.7 against Kolkata Knight Riders. It was a questionable move having Ganguly and Michael Clarke right at the top, given that they aren't the quickest scorers in the line-up. What followed was a sluggish opening passage, in which the Powerplay overs had 14 dots.
Ganguly charged the seamers, made room, but failed to find the timing to match his intentions. Clarke's drives failed to find the middle of the bat, often resulting in edges and mistimed flicks. Both openers were searching for a release, but the slower balls and the wicketkeeper Dishant Yagnik standing up to the stumps thwarted them.
Warriors lost Ganguly as he miscued a pull off Tait, giving a swirling catch to square leg. Despite Warriors struggling to find the boundaries, they persisted with their conservative approach by promoting little-known Bengal batsman Anustup Majumdar ahead of more aggressive options like Angelo Mathews and Steven Smith.
Only two fours were scored in the first ten overs, the lowest this season. Save for the first over, never at any stage in that period did the rate go above six an over. Majumdar interrupted a 42-ball snoozefest when he gave Ankeet Chavan a charge and launched him for the first of two sixes over wide long-on in the 11th over, which cost 16 runs - the most expensive of the innings.
However, his cameo didn't last longer than 20 balls when he was yorked by a 98.4 kph missile from Johan Botha the following over. The last eight overs produced just 46 runs to give Warriors a total well under par.
Royals lost their star player Ajinkya Rahane for a duck courtesy a brilliant one-handed catch at point by Smith. Smith nearly pulled off a freak catch at the boundary which would have sent Watson back on 11, if the rule on outfield catches hadn't been tweaked. After going deep in his crease to pound a six off Murali Kartik, he repeated the shot four balls later. Smith cupped the ball over his head, realised the momentum was taking him over the rope and threw the ball up. He was outside the field of play and airborne when he palmed the ball back in front of the rope, deeming it a six, owing to the rule change.
Watson capitalised on that lifeline and proceeded to hammer boundaries. At the end of five overs, Royals had hit five fours and two sixes, the same number Warriors managed in 20. Watson tore into Ashish Nehra, clipping two half volleys to the leg side for fours, before pulling another loosener over fine leg for six to bring up his fifty. Watson scored a massive 71.4% of the team's total, underlining his dominance on a pitch which flummoxed 11 Warriors.
Royals coasted home with 22 balls remaining, making it one of the more one-sided encounters this season. Warriors, with eight points from 13 games, now have only pride to play for.
Kanishkaa Balachandran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo