Pune: It was billed as the battle between two former India captains, both happily retired from international cricket, but this was largely one-way traffic as Sourav Ganguly's Pune Warriors India played themselves out of contention for a place in the play-offs in IPL V.
Having lost five on the bounce, the Warriors had to necessarily see off the threat of Rajasthan Royals to cling to slender hope. In the event, in a one-sided contest that left a packed gathering thoroughly disappointed, Rahul Dravid's boys climbed to fourth with a clinical seven-wicket rout, fashioned by the Australian pair of Shaun Tait (3/13) and Shane Watson.
Playing just his second game this season, Tait showed that even in the Twenty20 format, there is place for genuine pace, while Watson muscled his team home with an exceptional unbeaten 90 that, coming off just 51 deliveries and including 10 fours and four sixes, mocked the slowness of the surface.
Where the Royals, marshalled superbly by Dravid, were on top of their game, the Warriors looked insipid and out of sorts, their confusion manifesting itself in a seventh opening combination in 13 matches. Having opted to bat, Ganguly walked out with Michael Clarke in a bid to set the early tone, but the left-hander's travails merely exemplified the sub-par display of his batting unit.
The Warriors managed just five fours and two sixes in their entire 20 overs - the Royals matched those numbers inside the first five - as they limped to 125 for six, debutant Anustup Majumdar top-scoring with 30. Even accounting for the fact that Mumbai Indians had defended 120 at the same venue a week back against the home side, it was a total way too inadequate, as the Royals showed by powering to 126 for three with 22 deliveries left unutilised.
Fast and furious, Tait struck the early blow by having a scratchy Ganguly caught off a hesitant pull, then accounted for Robin Uthappa with a ball that swung away. In between, Stuart Binny struck a huge blow by trapping Clarke in front with his first delivery.
Steve Smith, the Warriors' most dangerous batsman, didn't walk out to bat until only 51 deliveries were left. For once, not even the ebullient Aussie could haul his side out of the woods as the Royals bowled with discipline and purpose, complemented superbly by excellent work on the park.
Smith pulled off a blinder at point to consign Ajinkya Rahane to a rare failure and Dravid was foxed by a slower delivery by Wayne Parnell, but the Royals were hardly stretched. Watson pieced together associations of 45 and 56 respectively with Dravid and Ashok Menaria, both of whom were happy to watch from the non-striker's end as the Aussie took the bowling apart with imperious strokeplay.