Kevin Pietersen scored a superlative 62 to help Royal Challengers Bangalore to a comprehensive five-wicket win over Rajasthan Royals in their Indian Premier League match, in Jaipur, on Wednesday. The result helped the last year's finalist close in on a last four berth.
Chasing a modest target, the visitors were home (132 for five) with 26 balls to spare. It was their second-best win in terms of balls to spare, after beating (with 57 balls left) the same opponents in the earlier match in this campaign.
Pietersen's 29-ball knock was inclusive of 10 boundaries and two sixes; the Englishman was also involved in a crucial 60-run third-wicket partnership with Robin Uthappa (26), one that laid the foundation for victory.
It was seventh instance -- in 10 matches -- of a team batting second winning at the Sawai Mansingh stadium. Shane Warne's decision to bat first after winning the toss turned out to be a wrong one in hindsight.
The win was Bangalore's second in their last five matches and seventh overall (in 13 matches), taking them up to second in the table (with 14 points).
It was also their second successive win over the team from Rajasthan in this edition following their 10 wicket thrashing at the Chinnasway Stadium last month.
The head-to-head encounters between the teams now stands at three wins apiece.
As regards Rajasthan Royals, it was their fourth defeat in their last six matches - seventh overall (in 13 matches).
The loss jeopardised their chances of a last four berth, considering the fact that their last match is away from home. They remain in fifth place on the table.
Kamran Khan, playing in his first match of the edition, gave Rajasthan a perfect start with the ball, cleaning up Jacques Kallis (0) in the second over.
But then came Pietersen, and any worries Bangalore had having lost an early wicket soon abated.
The Englishman smashed the first ball of Shane Watson's second over - the innings' third - to the square leg fence and, two balls later, helped himself to another boundary, this time in front of square.
Pietersen went ballistic in Khan's second over blasting 18 runs - including three boundaries on the trot followed by a massive six over midwicket.
Manish Pandey (14) joined the party with two boundaries in thrree balls off Siddharth Trivedi before perishing in pursuit of a third - in the process hitting straight to Yusuf Pathan at extra cover.
Pietersen carried forward the momentum though, helping himself to three boundaries of Adam Voges' first over.
As the field restrictions eased (after six overs), the visitors were comfortably placed at 59 for two.
And the in-form Uthappa got into the act with immediate effect, with a boundary each off Trivedi and Voges.
Uthappa the cleared the ropes off Warne for his 25th maximum - the most in the tournament, ahead of Yusuf's 24 sixes.
And Pietersen completed his fifty with a boundary over extra cover off Shane Warne.
The Englishman was equally severe in the legendary Australian's second over, hitting a boundary and six off successive balls.
But Warne came back to have Uthappa stumped.
Virat Kohli (14) smashed successive boundaries off Khan but then ran out a well-settled Pietersen.
The Delhi youngster didn't preserve his wicket either, hitting a Trivedi delivery straight to Shane Watson at short midwicket.
But Ross Taylor (10 not out) finished the match, smashing Trivedi over the midwicket fence for a maximum.
Earlier, the hosts managed just 130 for six in their stipulated 20 overs.
Rajasthan had made just 92 in their first match against Bangalore last month. They did marginally better on home turf, in the face of some disciplined bowling and tight fielding by the opposition.
Bangalore's stranglehold over the Rajasthan batsmen can be judged from the fact that the lone maximum of the latter innings came only off the penultimate ball.
The team from Rajasthan had a disastrous start.
RCB captain Anil Kumble had as many as four bowling changes in the first four overs and they worked in his favour.
Michael Lumb (9) got himself needlessly run out in the third over while two balls later, R Vinay Kumar (0) induced an inside off Amit Paunikar and Robin Uthappa made no mistakes behind the stumps.
It was Vinay Kumar's 16th wicket in the campaign and put him second - behind Deccan Chargers' spinner Pragyan Ojha - in the race for the Purple Cap.
Pankaj Singh, playing in his first match in this edition, was handed the ball in the first over and he struck with his second ball, having Naman Ojha (7) caught by Manish Pandey at midwicket.
Moreover, Singh's opening over also turned out to be a maiden, a rarity in this format.
Shane Watson (22) hit successive boundaries off Kumble, the first past midwicket and the second through covers, to ease the pressure.
The home side reached the 50-run mark in the 10th over.
But Jacques Kallis had Watson caught by Pietersen at square leg to add to Rajasthan's woes.
And Singh came back to have Abhishek Jhunjhunwala (13) caught by Kumble at mid-off to add to the misery.
Yusuf Pathan (11) hit successive boundaries to ease the pressure and in the process became the eighth batsman to score more than 1000 runs in the tournament - a feat achieved in his 42nd match.
But Dale Steyn returned to uproot Pathan's off-stump in the 14th over to end Rajasthan's hopes of a competitive total.
Abhishek Raut (32 not out) and Adam Voges (28 not out) put on 58 runs for the seventh wicket to take their team to the eventual score - 24 runs coming in the last two overs.
Earlier, Rajasthan Royals' captain Shane Warne called correctly and opted to bat first.
"It's a loose wicket and a belter. So we will hopefully put a good score and defend it," reasoned Warne.
His opposite number, Anil Kumble, wasn't too perturbed though.
"This looks a skiddy surface, one where ball should come on to the bat. And dew should be a factor later on in the day," he said.
Warne's decision didn't quite turn out the way he expected it to.
Royal Challengers Bangalore: Anil Kumble (captain), Jacques Kallis, Manish Pandey, Kevin Pietersen, Robin Uthappa, Ross Taylor, Virat Kohli, Rahul Dravid, Dale Steyn, Pankaj Jain, R Vinay Kumar.
Rajasthan Royals: Shane Warne (captain), Naman Ojha, Michael Lumb, Shane Watson, Amit Paunikar, Abhishek Jhunjhunwala, Abhishek Raut, Yusuf Pathan, Adam Voges, Kamran Khan, Siddharth Trivedi.