Australian all-rounder Shane Watson hit a blistering unbeaten 90 as Rajasthan Royals thrashed Pune Warriors by seven wickets in a thoroughly one-sided IPL contest to keep their hopes of qualifying for the knock-out stage alive.
The loss was Pune's eighth in 12 matches and thus ended any theoretical chance whatsoever of making it to the knock-out stages. Royals now have 12 points and the convincing win have got them upto fourth place with a healthy net run rate of +0.265.
It was the same old story of batting failure for Ganguly and his men. The only change in the script being that Warriors skipper Sourav Ganguly opted to bat first but his team could muster only 125 for six which was certainly not enough to compete.
In reply, Watson sent the Pune bowlers on a leather hunt as his knock came off only 51 balls laced with 10 fours and four sixes. He added 56 runs with Ashok Menaria (18) for the third wicket and Royals won with 22 balls to spare.
Watson feasted on the freebies provided by Warriors' 36-year-old long-time India discard Murali Kartik as he was hit for three fours and two sixes. The Aussie all-rounder signed off with a boundary.
Opting to bat first, Pune Warriors' batting woes continued as they could manage only 125 for six in their stipulated 20 overs.
Almost all the Warriors batsmen found the going tough as Team Rajasthan bowlers kept a tight leash on the home team batsmen.
Barring IPL debutant Anustup Majumdar who scored a quickfire 30, all the other batsmen found it hard to accelerate the pace of scoring on a pitch where strokmaking seemed difficult. Even Pune's best batsman Steve Smith struggled managing only 18 off 22 balls.
The testimony to that was only five boundaries and two sixes being hit in the entire Pune innings. Shaun Tait turned out to be the most successful bowler grabbing three for 13.
Skipper Sourav Ganguly's wretched form with the bat continued as he struggled to get his timing right. With his opening partner Michael Clarke also not in his element, the Warriors failed to utilise the Powerplay overs.
The only confident stroke that Ganguly hit was a square cut off Johan Botha's delivery during his innings of 14. He consumed 18 deliveries in the process.
After Tait dropped him in the deep fine leg region as he went for a mistimed hook-shot off Shane Watson's bowling, the former Aussie international made amends as he bowled a perfect bouncer to get rid of the former India captain as Ankeet Chavan took a well-judged catch.
Clarke was then done in by Stuart Binny's gentle inswinger that looked like hitting the leg-stump. Clarke score 16 off 18 balls. At 35 for two in the seventh over, Majumdar (30, 20 balls, 2x6, 1x4) joined hands with an out-of-form Robin Uthappa (13, 19 balls).
The pair added 42 runs for the third wicket but strangely enough it was Anustup who started taking on the Pune bowlers rather than million-dollar man Uthappa who was content taking singles.
In the 11th over, Anustup hit left-arm spinner Chavan for two sixes in the deep mid-wicket region. Showing good temperament, he then hit an inside-out shot over extra-cover off Botha but the offie got his revenge as he yorked the Bengal lad.
Uthappa's horrible run continued as he edged one off Tait to glovesman Dishant Yagnik behind the stumps.