Ajinkya Rahane scored a blistering 98 to guide Rajasthan Royals to a comprehensive 31-run win over Kings XI Punjab in their opening Indian Premier League Season Five match in Jaipur on Friday.
He was the cynosure of all eyes at the Sawai Mansingh stadium, scoring 98 runs off just 66 balls, with the help of 16 boundaries and a six, that powered Rajasthan to 191 for four after they were sent in to bat.
Chasing the imposing total, Kings XI were never in the hunt. They lost wickets at regular intervals and were restricted to 160 for nine.
Skipper Adam Gilchrist started the run-chase on a promising note, scoring 27 off 18 balls, with the help of three fours and a six, before he miscued a shot to West Indian Kevon Cooper at mid-on off Amit Singh's bowling.
Kings XI's last year's hero, Paul Valthaty (13) also departed early, caught smartly by Amit Singh off Cooper at short third-man.
To make matters worse for the visitors, Cooper struck twice in the next over to reduce Kings XI to 61 for four.
Cooper foxed Shaun Marsh with a slower delivery, which the Australian looped straight to Dravid, and then, three balls later, had Abhishek Nayar caught by wicket-keeper Shreevats Goswami.
Cooper was again in the thick of things as he took a simple catch at long-on to send David Hussey packing off the bowling of Siddharth Trivedi.
Mandeep Singh (34) and Bipul Sharma tried to force a comeback by forging a 37-run sixth-wicket stand but it was not to be, as both fell in quick succession to left-arm spinner Ankeet Chavan (2/28).
From there on victory was just a formality for Rajasthan as Cooper picked another wicket in the form of Piyush Chawla.
For Rajasthan, Cooper starred with the ball, claiming four wickets for 25 runs.
Earlier, Rahane powered Rajasthan to the mammoth total. But just when he was set for the first century of IPL V, he was bowled by James Faulkner (2/41) in the final over of the innings, two runs short of the three-figure mark.
Put in to bat, captain Rahul Dravid (28) and Rahane gave Rajasthan a flying start, sharing 77 runs for the opening stand that came off just 57 balls.
After a quiet first over, Rahane broke the shackles with two consecutive boundaries off Faulkner in the next.
He then clobbered Praveen Kumar for four fours to pick 16 runs of the bowler's second over.
Dravid, on the other hand, played sensibly with ones and twos but hit boundaries when opportunities came his way.
After toiling for 9.3 overs, Kings XI finally got the breakthrough, when Dravid was dimissed by Harmeet Singh (1/23), caught by Faulkner at the cover boundary as he tried to slap one over the in-field.
Rahane soon brought up his fifty in style, off just 37 balls, hitting Chawla (1/33) straight over his head in the 10th over.
The visitors, however, tasted another success in the same over when Ashok Maneria was castled by Chawla for a duck.
But the two quick dismissals had no effect on Rahane, who went about his business in style, and struck two boundaries and a six to pick 16 runs from Paul Valthaty's only over.
Rahane was in ominous mood as he played delightful strokes on all sides of the wicket and did not spare a single Kings XI bowler.
Chawla again came under Rahane's fury, the right-hander smashing the leg-spinner for three consecutive fours in the 17th over.
Brad Hodge also played his part with a 16-ball 21-run knock before he was bowled by Faulkner.