Despite Pune's legspinner, Adam Zampa, producing figures of 6 for 19 - the second best in the history of the Indian Twenty20 competition - Pune fell four runs short of beating an in form Hyderabad in Visakhapatnam on Tuesday.
David Warner, Hyderabad's captain, won the toss and opted to bat first on a surface that favoured bowlers. The gamble didn't work in Hyderabad's favour, as their batsmen found it difficult to tame the spinning surface.
After RP Singh dismissed Warner for 11 in the fourth over, it was the spinners, Zampa and R Ashwin - that took centre stage. Ashwin - used sparingly by MS Dhoni in the tournament so far - troubled the batsmen with his flight and spin. When Ashwin finished his four over quota, Hyderabad were at 70 for 2 in 13 overs.
Kane Williamson and Yuvraj Singh smashed two fours and two sixes of the next two overs by Rajat Bhatia and Thisara Perera, before a Zampa googly forced Singh to miscue a lofted shot to long-off. Zampa then dismissed Williamson and Moises Henriques in the 18th over off successive balls, after they had smashed Perera for 12, an over earlier.
Deepak Hooda ran down the pitch and clobbered Zampa for a six off the first ball of the 20th over, but the spinner foxed Hooda off the second ball, and had him stumped, as he looked to advance down the pitch again. Zampa then bowled Naman Ojha off the thigh pad with a slider and had Bhuvneshwar Kumar caught at long-on off the last ball. Hyderabad managed just 137 in their innings.
Warner looked to his inform pace attack, comprising of Ashish Nehra, Mustafizur Rahman and Bhuvneshwar Kumar, to make early inroads and the bowlers didn't disappoint, as they made it difficult for Pune to score freely.
Ajinkya Rahane was dismissed in the first over, while his opening partner Usman Khwaja was run out in the fourth. George Bailey and Ashwin were then promoted to Nos. 3 and 4 in a bid to stabilise the innings. The duo added 49 in eight overs, and when the partnership ended, Pune needed 70 from 48 balls.
It eventually came down to 42 off the last four. Rahman conceded only 13 off the 17th and 19th over. The neat display left Pune with 14 to get from the last over. Nehra held his nerve to dismiss Perera and Zampa, while Dhoni was run out. Pune managed just 133 in reply. The win took Hyderabad top of the points table, and left Pune with close to no chance of qualifying for the playoffs.
"It has not sunk in. Disappointing end to the game. There is also pressure and batsmen come hard," Zampa said. "Legspinners are always in the game. Dhoni just picked up the ball and threw the last over to me. MS just told me Hooda's strength was leg side and asked me to bowl outside off. It worked. We have obviously had a hard season but Flem is keeping it together. Playing the IPL has been a different experience."