Rajasthan Royals comprehensively crushed favourite 'whipping boys' Delhi Daredevils by 62 runs in a thoroughly one-sided encounter to consolidate their chances of making it to the play-offs in the seventh edition of the Indian Premier League on Thursday.
Kevin Pietersen completely read the pitch wrong as he invited Rajasthan Royals to make best use of the conditions piling up their season's best score of 201 for six.
Ajinkya Rahane (64), Sanju Samson (40), Kevon Cooper (32) and James Faulkner (23) all made merry against a below par Daredevils attack.
In reply, Daredevils batsmen never had the technique to win a match on a pitch that got slower with each passing over as they managed only 139 for nine to slump to their ninth defeat including sixth consecutive loss at home.
Royals now have 14 points have steered clear by four points ahead of their nearest rival Kolkata Knight Riders, who are on 10 points.
Manoj Tiwary fought well for his unbeaten 61 but the Daredevils were never in the game from the first over of the match. Mayank Agarwal (17) was done in by a slower from James Faulkner as stand-in captain Steve Smith grabbed an easy catch at mid-off.
Dinesh Karthik (3), who was bought for a whopping 12.5 crore again flattered to deceive as he mistimed a pull off a slow bouncer from Dhawal Kulkarni to be caught by Ben Cutting at fine leg boundary.
JP Duminy (8) hit Tambe for a six but the 'Grand Old Man' of IPL had his revenge with a googly which Duminy played into the hands of Karun Nair standing at point.
Kevin Pietersen (13) should have been adjudged run-out when he was on three as he was caught short of crease with substitute Unmukt Chand hitting the stumps. Umpire S Ravi shocked everyone as he didn't even consult the third umpire just like now ousted Sanjay Hazare didn't against the same team at Delhi.
Pietersen's agony increased as the pitch got slower and Rajat Bhatia varied the pace and length making it virtually impossible as he was bowled trying a hoick. Ross Taylor (4) also committed early to a slower delivery giving a simple return catch to Bhatia.
Within first 10 overs, the match as a contest was as good as over with half of the team in the dug-out. Tiwary's poor call saw a mix-up resulting in Kedar Jadhav's (3) run-out and formalities were left from there on.
Earlier Rahane once again anchored the innings to perfection while Samson played another flamboyant knock as Rajasthan Royals piled up season's highest score of 201 for six after being out into bat.
Rahane scored a stylish 64 off 50 balls while Samson smashed his way to 40 off only 25 deliveries. The duo punished the opposition scoring as many as 74 runs in 6.3 overs for the third wicket partnership.
While Rahane mostly played othodox cricketing shots hitting eight boundaries and a six in the process, Samson indulged in some adventurous strokeplay hitting two fours and three sixes. Kevon Cooper's 16-ball-32 and James Faulkner's 23 off eight deliveries were also vital in the context of the big total that the 'Blues' put up.
Rahane's 50 came off 45 balls and his only six came when a desperate Shahbaz Nadeem tried to employ a negative leg-stump line only to give him a juicy full-toss. When he was finally bowled trying to hit Nadeem inside out, he had set the pace of the Royals innings.
For Daredevils, Imran Tahir (2-25) stood tall amid some of the others while Rahul Shukla leaking as many as 44 in four overs. In-form Karun Nair (19) started positively as he lofted Siddharth Kaul over extra cover for a six and boundary but was out in the last over of Powerplay when he was done in by a Nadeem delivery that dipped in and straightened. He was adjudged leg-before.
While Rahane punished the loose deliveries, Cooper played a short but exciting innings that lasted only 16 balls but yielded 32 runs including three huge sixes and a couple of boundaries before he was holed at the deep extra cover boundary trying to hit Duminy for a second six.
The 100 came in the 12th over of the innings bowled by Manoj Tiwary. Samson started his innings with a straight six hit into the sightscreen of occasional leg-breaks bowled by Tiwary.
Kaul was one bowler who didn't learn anything from his mistakes as he repeatedly bowled the length deliveries which was dispatched over the ropes. There was very little variation in his deliveries as he was easily sorted by the batsmen. When Kaul hit one back of the length, Samson played a smashing flat-batted shot.
The other inexperienced bowler was Rahul Shukla also didn't improve from his erratic bowling against the RCB where Yuvraj Singh pounced on him. He did not show any inclination in using the change-ups and the batsmen used his pace to get boundaries off him repeatedly.
Image: Ajinkya Rahane is congratulated by Rajasthan Royals teammate Sanju Samson after scoring a fifty.