Captain Steven Smith's love affair with Pune continued as he led Rising Pune Supergiant to a seven-wicket victory over Mumbai Indians in a thrilling Indian Premier League match, in Pune, on Thursday.
Smith finished off the match with two consecutive sixes in the final over bowled by Kieron Pollard to remain not out on a smashing innings of 84 from 54 balls as Pune chased down the target of 185 with one ball to spare.
Former India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni was a silent spectator at the other end as Smith pulled of a sensational run chase at the same ground where he had smashed a century to set up a memorable win for Australia against India in the recent Test series.
Pune needed 13 runs from the final over before the equation came down to 10 from four balls. With Dhoni unable to get the big hits, Smith took matters in his own hand as he clubbed Pollard for a six off the fourth ball and then lofted the next delivery over midwicket to end the match in grand style.
India batsman Ajinkya Rahane also made a significant contribution at the top of the order, hitting a brilliant 60 from 34 balls with the help of six fours and three sixes to give Pune a solid start.
Pune began brightly but lost Mayank Agarwal (6) in the fourth over bowled by Mitchell McClenaghan before Smith and Rahane stitched 58 runs for the second wicket from seven overs to lay the foundation for the run chase.
Rahane and captain Smith batted sensibly with a mix of caution and aggression to take Pune to 93 for one at the halfway mark.
Rahane raced to his half-century from just 27 balls, his fastest in the IPL, with a four off Hardik Pandya in the ninth over but he fell two overs later while attempting a pull shot as Nitish Rana took a smart catch at deep square leg.
Rahane hit six boundaries and three sixes in his 34-ball knock.
Smith then dropped anchor and showed his class by hitting some exquisite shots to ensure that Pune remained in the hunt in his debut captaincy for the Pune side. The Australian was dropped on 36 off the bowling of McClenaghan with Nitish Rana being the culprit.
Mumbai raised some hopes of a win after Hardik Pandya dismissed Ben Stokes, this IPL season's costliest buy, for 21. But it was shortlived as Smith remained unbeaten till the end to ensure that this team started off the tournament with a victory.
Earlier, leg-spinner Imran Tahir produced a sensational three-wicket burst in the space of 10 balls but Hardik Pandya's late heroics took Mumbai Indians to 184 for eight in their 20 overs.
South African Tahir, who was unsold in the IPL auction before he was drafted in the Pune team as a late replacement for the injured Mitchell Marsh, triggered a top-order collapse as he registered superb figures of three for 28 to put brakes on Mumbai's rollicking start after they were put into bat.
Mumbai did not have any substantial partnership after the opening wicket stand of 45 between Parthiv Patel (19) and Jos Butler (38) before Pandya's late flourish took them to a good total.
Pandya was unbeaten on a smashing innings of 35 from 15 balls, having hit four and four sixes all in the final over bowled by Ashok Dinda which went for 30 runs.
Tahir cleaned up Patel in his second ball of the match, giving Pune the first breakthrough after Mumbai had knocked off 41 runs in the first four overs. He dealt a body blow to Mumbai in his next over by sending back captain Rohit Sharma (3) who tried to work Tahir's delivery to the leg side without any foot movement only to lose his stumps.
Just two balls later, Tahir dismissed opener Buttler, who was going great guns, who was given out leg before wicket despite a clear inside edge to rock the Mumbai innings.
Butler had hit his England team-mate and this season's costliest buy Ben Stokes for two consecutive sixes to set the tempo for Mumbai early in their innings.
Rajat Bhatia picked up two wickets as he had Ambati Rayudu caught and bowled for 10 before Mumbai reached 100-run mark in 13th over. Bhatia then cut short Krunal Pandya's (3) stay at the crease to just five balls to reduce Mumbai to 107 for five in the 14th over.
Delhi lad Nitish Rana tried to steady the Mumbai innings with a 28-ball 34 but he was also out in 16th over, leaving West Indian Kieron Pollard to take the responsibility.
Pollard got limited success as he was dismissed for 27 in the penultimate over by Stokes, who bagged his first IPL wicket. Hardik Pandya then stunned the home crowd as Mumbai scored 30 runs from the final over as he slammed a hapless Dinda for four sixes and a boundary.