(The Times Of India)
Robin Uthappa started his innings with a reverse sweep and ended with a reverse sweep. His less celebrated teammate Mohnish Mishra scored one four and had just one dot ball in the first 17 he faced. But his last four balls were 4, 6, 0, 6 off Muttiah Muralitharan which gave a pulsating end to the match on Wednesday night.
Pune Warriors India won their second match in a row, this time against fellow dubutants Kochi Tuskers (who have lost both their games now) by four wickets with seven balls to spare. Kochi’s 148-8 proved insufficient on a track which had something for the bowlers.
Uthappa’s first reverse saw him hit Muralitharan for four and the last one proved to be his downfall. In between, he led Pune Warriors’ mini massacre of Kochi bowling. Pune needed 34 off 33 balls with six wickets in hand when Uthappa attempted that stroke. The ball hit the top of off stump from behind his back.
At that point, it seemed Pune would lose the plot. But 27-year-old Mishra had other ideas. The Bhopal lad, earlier with Deccan Chargers, made it tragic for Kochi.
Uthappa’s first had come after a team’s boundaryless patch of 22 balls in which the ‘hosts’ lost two wickets. Graeme Smith (24 off 24), who had a collision with Rahul Sharma while fielding and had to bat with a runner, again got out against the run of play hitting a full toss to deep mid-wicket while Mithun Manhas holed out to long-on.
Pune seemed to be struggling when field restrictions were a bit lenient after six overs. They were 44-1 after six but could add only 17 runs in the next four. Captain Yuvraj didn’t look comfortable and his attempted cut was plucked by Parthiv Patel behind the wickets.
Earlier, Aussie Brad Hodge (39 off 36) and Ravindra Jadeja (47 off 33, 3x4s, 3x6s) added 88 runs for the fifth wicket in 10.3 overs to give Kochi a fighting chance after being 24-4.
Pune Warriors again had a dream start to the match after losing the toss, led by Wayne Parnell who took three wickets in two overs. He had VVS Laxman play on for a blob, had captain Mahela Jayawardene (2) caught behind and got Parthiv Patel (21 off 19) caught at first slip.
However, Hodge and Jadeja took the score to 112 by the 16th over before Kartik took a brilliant low catch at long-off to send back Hodge and then Jadeja played a careless shot (high at extra cover) to hand back the momentum as Jesse Ryder’s (2-0-8-1) neither-spin-nor-pace did the trick.
Left-arm spinners Murali Kartik, Yuvraj Singh and leggie Rahul Sharma went for 60 runs in combined nine overs and Parnell went for 20 runs in his last two overs after being 2-0-5-3 in his first spell.