Pune Warriors had only four wins in their entire campaign in 2011, and were expected to struggle again in the absence of their marquee player Yuvraj Singh. Instead, they've got three victories in four games and are top of the table after upsetting the fancied Chennai Super Kings in front of a boisterous home crowd.
It was an all-round performance from Warriors, with their bowlers first stifling the power-packed Super Kings batting by hitting the blockhole as often as possible, backed up by some sharp fielding, something which is a rarity in the IPL.
Their chase was then controlled by two contrasting innings from two men struggling to hold down a place in their national sides. Jesse Ryder began in a hurry, but calmed down to play through the innings for the first time in his T20 career. Just when things started to become tense in the chase, Steven Smith hammered a bunch of boundaries, including two in the final over to complete the victory.
It hadn't seemed that it would be this close an encounter after Ryder, who would probably have been dropped had he failed again, provided a turbo-charged start, and even the run-outs of Robin Uthappa and Sourav Ganguly weren't too big a hindrance. The spin duo of R Ashwin and Suresh Raina, though, choked the runs to inflate the asking rate, making it difficult to understand why Ravindra Jadeja was not used. It came down to 34 required off the final three overs, in which Ryder only needed to take three singles - Smith's big hits took care of the rest.
Both captains had been uncertain about how the pitch at the new Subrata Roy Sahara Stadium in Pune would behave, but it had few demons in it. Super Kings' innings was built around a clutch of boundaries at the start of the innings from one of their cheapest buys, Faf du Plessis, and a flourish from their most expensive signing, Jadeja, in the second half.
The openers began slowly before du Plessis waded into the fourth over from Ashish Nehra, taking 18 off it including a six over the bowler's head after advancing down the track. Du Plessis went on to become the highest run-getter of the tournament, but his opening partner M Vijay's struggles continued.
Still, Super Kings were well placed after du Plessis' blast, but were slowed down by legspinner Rahul Sharma's strikes, who removed both du Plessis and Raina. Warriors then kept a lid on the scoring through some fast and full bowling from Marlon Samuels, who fired in a succession of quicker deliveries, some clocked as high as 127kph. The batsmen couldn't get under those deliveries, and even MS Dhoni couldn't find the boundaries, finishing on an underwhelming 26 off 28.
Jadeja came out firing, and provided some impetus. Samuels' darts and Ashok Dinda's impressive ability to consistently deliver yorkers, though, kept the scoring down. All through the second half of the innings, one kept waiting for Super Kings' big onslaught, but Warriors' bowlers ensured that it never came.