Ross Taylor smashed a quickfire unbeaten 47 as Rajasthan Royals thumped Pune Warriors by six wickets in a thrilling encounter to jump to the top of the table in Indian Premier League in Jaipur on Sunday.
Taylor, who was dropped on 31, smashed four boundaries and two sixes in his 35-ball unbeaten knock and shared 52 runs with Ajinkya Rahane (15 not out) for the unseparated fifth wicket to chase down the target of 144 with three balls to spare.
At one stage, it looked like Pune would snap their five-match losing streak with the asking rate rising near 11 by the 16th over but Taylor and Rahane kept their nerves as Rajasthan reached 144 for four in 19.3 overs in the match that went down the wire.
With the victory, Rajasthan Royals have won 15 of their 19 matches they had played at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium in the IPL so far.
They are now on top of IPL table with 11 points from nine matches ahead of Kolkata Knight Riders (10 points from eight matches) and Mumbai Indians (10 from seven).
For Pune, who dropped three catches in the match, leg-spinner Rahul Sharma took three for 13 while Alfonso Thomas got one wicket. Left-arm spinner Murali Kartik went wicketless for 41 runs from his four overs.
Chasing 144 for a win, the RR openers Shane Watson (12) and Rahul Dravid (18) did not contribute much and that gave Pune a chance before Taylor and Rahane took the game away.
Pune started their bowling with Kartik and he could have achieved success in his fourth ball itself but Manish Pandey failed to hold onto a difficult catch and Watson survived.
Watson did not, however, stay long as he was out in the fifth over with Thomas finding his edge with an outswinger for Robin Uthappa to take the catch behind the stumps.
Dravid, who hit two flourishing fours early on, later struggled and was dropped by Harpreet Singh in sixth over.
But the blunder did not cost Rajasthan Royals dear as Dravid was out in the eighth over with the addition of just four runs to his individual score. The former India captain was caught and bowled by Rahul Sharma in a soft dismissal.
RR lost their third wicket in the 11th over in the form of Johan Botha (12) but they were still on course at 59/3.
Taylor and Ashok Maneria (29) had some lusty hits mainly off Kartik but the asking rate rose to more than 10 by the end of the 15th over.
The explosive New Zealander then changed the complexion of the game with a flurry of big hits though he was lucky to have survived as Nathan McCullum dropped him when on 31.
Taylor took 16 runs from Kartik in the 16th over with the help of two fours and a six and the asking rate dropped down nine per over.
Rajasthan required 19 from the last two overs but Taylor hit a huge six in the penultimate over to take the game away from Pune. Taylor’s younger partner Rahane hit the winning run, a single, to take RR to their third win on the trot.
Earlier, Pune Warriors failed to capitalise on a strong start as they were restricted to 143 for seven by Rajasthan Royals.
Put into bat, Pune were shaping up for a decent total as they were 91 for two at the end of 12th over but the last eight overs yielded just 52 runs while losing five wickets to give their opponents just over seven runs per over to win the match.
The visiting side could cross 140 thanks mainly to the 46-run partnership from 32 balls for the third wicket between Robin Uthappa (35) and Manish Pandey (30).
The home side could hit just one six and that came in the last over from the blade of Mithun Manhas (24 not out).
For Rajasthan Royals, who impressed with their fielding at their home Sawai Man Singh stadium, Siddharth Trivedi got two wickets for 28 runs while Shane Watson, Johan Botha and Shane Warne took a wicket apiece.
Pune made a strong start with Jesse Ryder (18) looking set for a big innings but he fell in the third over off right-arm off-spinner Botha who opened bowling for Rajasthan Royals.
Ryder charged out and went for a big shot but the ball turned away sharply and wicketkeeper Dishant Yagnik effected a fine stumping.
The other opener Manish and one-down Uthappa then shared a valuable 46-run partnership from 32 balls for the third wicket to maintain a healthy run rate.
Uthappa, however, lived on the edge and took calculated risk as he hit Rajasthan captain Warne for three fours in the sixth over though he survived confident appeals from the remaining three balls of the over.
It was Warne, however, who had the last laugh by dismissing Uthappa in the ninth over as the batsman top-edged while trying a reverse sweep for Yagnik to take the catch.
Uthappa’s cameo of 35 came from 21 balls and had seven fours in it.
Pune were still in a strong position by reaching 77 for two at the halfway mark but two quick wickets in the space of five balls in the 13th over bowled by Trivedi, including that of captain Yuvraj Singh (7), pecked them back.
Yuvraj was out in a freakish dismissal as he had backed up too far from his crease and a Pandey slap down the ground hit the wickets at the bowler’s end after touching Trivedi’s hand.
Four balls later, Pandey fell to a poor shot off a full toss as it looped up in the air before landing at deep midwicket fielder Ross Taylor. Pandey’s 30 came from 31 balls.
Harpreet Singh (13) was out in the penultimate over with Ajinkya Rahane holding onto a fine catch at the deep off the bowling of Watson.