Uthappa v Malinga I
Lasith Malinga returned for his second spell with half of Pune's line-up already dismissed. Robin Uthappa, however, had survived the early damage and was looking to shift into a higher gear. Still, one expected him to shackle his usual audacity and guard his toes against the purple cap holder. Uthappa had other ideas, though. After spanking a full delivery straight down the ground for four, he took guard nearly a couple of feet out of his crease. Malinga did not like what he saw, and sent down a brute of a bouncer. Despite being well forward, Uthappa did well to duck before it took him with it.
Uthappa v Malinga II
That bouncer did not scare Uthappa one bit. He continued to stand well out of the crease, looking to press the front foot further ahead as Malinga steamed in for the 13th over. He must have been looking for the yorker this time, but the ball slipped out of the sling and hurtled across at head-height. Luckily, the line was as bad as the length and it slid down the leg side. Uthappa gave it a bewildered swat towards short midwicket. Sachin Tendulkar completed the catch, but it was quite clearly a no-ball for height.
Pollard's Flintoff-Afridi moment
Despite those two iffy moments against Malinga, Uthappa had swaggered along to 45, when he tried to launch Ali Murtaza over long-on. He didn't hit it cleanly though, and Kieron Pollard motored across to his left and dived forward to take a spectacular catch at close-to-full stretch. He got up on his knees, stretched his arms on either side la Andrew Flintoff, and then held the pose in Shahid Afridi fashion, even as his team-mates converged.
Thomas' Pollard moment
Alfonso Thomas was lurking in the deep when Ambati Rayudu looked to smash a six over wide long-off. He made solid contact and the ball seemed set to go all the way when Thomas reprised Pollard's boundary stunt from the game against Kochi. Thomas back-pedalled, leapt up full length and caught the ball mid-air, but realising he was going to land behind the boundary, he dropped the ball back into play. If not for Thomas' effort, Tendulkar would not have been on strike, and subsequently got out to the next ball.
Rayudu takes a beating
It wasn't Ambati Rayudu's best day. He fumbled a few behind the stumps after taking over wicketkeeping duties from Davy Jacobs, but his evening worsened when he was batting. They say the non-striker's end is the best seat in the house when Tendulkar is in full flow, but the statement comes with some fine-print pertaining to personal safety. In the 13th over of the chase, Tendulkar lunged forward and smashed a Murali Kartik delivery straight at Rayudu. Despite his best efforts, Rayudu could not evade the missile and was left wincing after taking the blow on his hand. A couple of overs later, he missed a slow bouncer from Thomas that nipped in and hit his elbow. Ouch.
The hyped analogy
"Pune are the Manchester City of the IPL, they are just noisy neighbours" - an innocent piece of reader feedback raised the bar for what was anyway expected to be a close contest between India's western neighbours. The Maharashtra derby, however, was a bit of a damp squib, last-ball finish notwithstanding. The smile on Yuvraj Singh's face at the end of it all reiterated how far this game was from the ankle-crushing tackles of football derbies. The football connection, however, triggered off an avalanche of comments comparing cricketers to footballers. Sachin Tendulkar/Ryan Giggs was the most popular one while Sreesanth/El Hadj Diouf was somewhat left-field.