When Rahul Dravid of Rajasthan Royals was asked at the toss to name the changes to his line-up, he paused for a few seconds before giving up trying to recollect the second spinner. Ajit Chandila
ensured that his captain and the rest of the world weren't going to forget his name. The little-known offspinner from Haryana responded with a hat-trick in only his second game, reducing Pune Warriors to a train wreck early in their chase of 171. Warriors extended their losing streak to eight - the worst in IPL history - while Royals stayed in the hunt for the playoffs.
It proved a masterstroke by Dravid tossing the new ball to Chandila. Warriors didn't know what to expect from the tall spinner, only two first-class matches old. With a run-up of barely a few steps, and a languid action to boot, Chandila tossed it up at such an agonisingly slow pace that it took an eternity for the ball to land. Jesse Ryder opted to hammer him out of the attack but ended up mis-hitting it to Shane Watson pedaling back at mid-on.
Sourav Ganguly tried to nudge the next delivery but the ball dribbled back towards the wicketkeeper Shreevats Goswami who broke the stumps before Ganguly could ground his bat. Chandila struck with the first ball of his second over, drawing Robin Uthappa forward and beating him on the drive before Goswami whipped off the bails. Chandila's split hat-trick was all the more glossy because the victims were international batsmen. It was the seventh hat-trick in IPL history and the first of this edition.
Chandila had time to sneak in another wicket, off a simple caught and bowled to get rid of Anustup Majumdar, and finished with figures of 4 for 13. Warriors were tottering at 26 for 4, a position from which they never recovered from. Royals never allowed a partnership to get past 34, they conceded just 11 boundaries in the innings and lit up an otherwise drab phase after the hat-trick with a jaw-dropping fielding effort at the boundary by Johan Botha and Ajinkya Rahane to get rid of Rahul Sharma. Botha caught it at the edge of the rope at long-off and relayed it to an alert Rahane who claimed the catch.
Royals batted Warriors out of the match thanks to half-centuries by Watson and Rahane. Ganguly returned to lead Warriors but he and his team-mates let themselves down with a flat performance in the field that allowed the Watson-Rahane partnership to flourish.
The urgency in the running between the wickets picked up when the pair came together. Rahane in particular was impressive in his calling as he pushed the ball to the slower men in the deep, starting with Ganguly, and the few extra seconds they took to get to the ball cost Warriors extra runs.
Watson biffed boundaries through his favoured on-side region. He began with a slog over midwicket off Bhuvneshwar Kumar, before pounding consecutive sixes off Murali Kartik, one of which was a full toss clubbed over the second tier at deep midwicket. As the pitch was on the slower side, Watson's powerful bat-speed gave his shots more velocity. He punished the spinners with powerful pulls and drives, fetching two free boundaries via misfields. Steven Smith, known for his acrobatic saves at the boundary, overran the ball at deep midwicket, while Kartik too let one slip between his legs.
Watson sped to his fifty with a clipped four to deep square leg and a six over deep midwicket off Jesse Ryder. However, he played all over a yorker from Ashish Nehra, leaving his team at a healthy 123 for 2 in the 15th over. Warriors were guilty of not bowling to their field, bowling half volleys on the pads with the fine leg up. Rahane proceeded towards his fifty with wristy clips and punches through the off side. His knock ensured that Royals didn't lose their way after Watson's departure. Minutes after the chase got underway, the game was all but won by Royals.