Ajit Chandila claimed four wickets, including the first hat-trick of the season, in a sensational spin-bowling spell as Rajasthan Royals crushed Pune Warriors by 45 runs in a lop-sided Indian Premier League match in Jaipur on Sunday.
The Sri Lankan off-spinner needed just 17 balls to grab his four wickets. Chandila, who was playing in only his second match of the IPL, was though not getting prodigious turn from the Sawai Man Singh Stadium pitch and the batsmen were also partly to be blamed for their poor shots.
With the win today, Rajasthan remained in contention for a play-offs spot with 14 points from 14 matches. Set to score a challenging 171 for a win, the match was as good as over for Pune by the fifth over when they were down four wickets for just 26 with their top-four failing to reach double digit.
Captain Sourav Ganguly, who was embroiled in a controversy over his place in the team, scored two while Jesse Ryder, Robin Uthappa and Anustup Majumdar made one, six and nine respectively.
Steven Smith top-scored with 37 while Callum Fergusson and Angelo Mathews made identical 23. Smith and Mathews shared 39 runs from four overs for the sixth wicket to give a semblance of a fight before the former was out in the 15th over.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar (3), Mathews and Rahul Sharma (0) were out in the space of 11 balls with the latter two falling in the 18th over, both victims of Watson as Pune could only score 125 for nine in the end. Other than Chandila, Watson and Johan Botha bagged two wickets each while pacer Shaun Tait took one wicket to complete the humiliation of Pune.
Pune made a disastrous beginning in their run chase with two wickets falling in the very first over bowled by Chandila.
Struggling Jesse Ryder (1) was out in the fifth ball of the innings. The New Zealnader failed to connect the delivery properly and he skied it to Watson at the mid-on region. He faced two balls.
In the next ball, Ganguly was stumped-out for a four-ball two as the former India skipper once again failed with the bat. He stepped forward and looked to nudge a harmless-looking ball but it hit his pad, bounced to the wicketkeeper Sreevats Goswami who quickly took off the bails before the batsman, who was off-balanced, could reach the crease.
In the first ball of his second over, third of the innings, Chandila again combined with Goswami to stumped-out Robin Uthappa (6) to complete his hat-trick.
Uthappa stepped forward looking to drive the delivery through the off-side only to be beaten and Goswami removed the bails before the batsman could take his back foot to the crease.
Pune's woes continued while Chandila grabbed his fourth wicket by dismissing Majumdar caught and bowled. Majumdar played a tentative shot to a length ball but it hit high on his bat and looped back to Chandila to take four wickets from 17 balls.
Earlier, Watson and Ajinkya Rahane struck half centuries as Rajasthan scored a challenging 170 for four.
The highlight of Rajasthan innings after choosing to bat first was the 94-run stand for the second wicket between Watson (58) and opener Rahane (61) after captain Rahul Dravid (21) departed early.
Watson threatened to take Rajasthan to a much bigger total with a flurry of boundaries in his 31-ball knock before he was out in the 15th over. He hit six fours and four sixes in his innings.
Rahane, on the other hand, was less adventurous and more intent to preserve his wicket before being out in the final over. He hit seven fours in his 47-ball knock.
Rajasthan were 126 for two at the end of 15th over but they lost way towards the end as they could add just 44 runs in last five overs with Brad Hodge (14) out in 19th over.
For Pune, Ashish Nehra was the most successful bowler with figures of three for 23 while Angelo Mathews got one wicket for 29 runs.
Rajasthan, who need to win all of their remaining matches to keep their hopes of making it to the play-offs alive, began on a sedate note with captain Dravid and Rahane not taking too many risks. Not many boundaries came in the first powerplay.
Dravid was the first one to go in the fifth over with Pune wicketkeeper Robin Uthappa effecting a superb catch. Dravid wanted to launch an Ashish Nehra delivery but got an outside edge and Uthappa dived to his right to take a low one-handed catch.
Rajasthan were then 29 for one and they could score just 45 for one at the end of the first powerplay.
One down Watson then began the fireworks as he hit Bhuvneshwar Kumar for a six as soon as he came out. He then smote Murali Kartik for two successive sixes in the 10th over at the end of which Rajasthan were 77 for one.
Pune captain Sourav Ganguly, who returned to lead the side after sitting out for one match, brought in part-timer Jesse Ryder in the 13th over but the burly New Zealander was hit for a six and two fours to concede 15 runs.
Watson reached his fifty with that six in the 26th ball he faced with four fours and as many sixes.
Watson, however, fell in the 15th over to Nehra who returned for his second spell. The strong-built Australian edged a yorker-length delivery on to the stumps. His 31-ball knock was studded with six fours and four sixes.