Ahmedabad, April 14: Captain Steve Smith hit an unbeaten half century to hand Rajasthan Royals a third straight win in the Indian Premier League 2015 (IPL 8) here at Sardar Patel Stadium on Tuesday.
With three wins in a row, the latest being tonight's 7-wicket success over Mumbai Indians (MI), RR climbed to the top of the table. MI stayed at the bottom with third consecutive loss. Chasing 165, RR won in 19.1 overs with Smith undefeated on 79. This was Smith's maiden IPL half century.
Smith was well supported by Ajinkya Rahane (46) as they raised a 64-run stand for the second wicket. The Australian shifted gears at will as he first relied on finding the gaps, running hard between the wicket, and when needed, he found the boundaries effortlessly. He found the fence eight times and also smashed a six.
The decision to bat seemed to have backfired as MI managed only 45 runs in the first 10 overs but the fiery 104-run stand between Kieron Pollard (70) and Corey Anderson (50) changed the team's fortunes as they ended with a respectable 164 for five.
Pollard's 70 came off just 34 balls as he punished the Royals bowlers with seven fours and five sixes while Anderson supported the Caribbean with a 38-ball 50.
Royals were steady in their chase despite losing Sanju Samson (17) early. There were no big shots to see but under the charismatic leader Smith, Royals kept a decent run-rate.
As has been Smith's style, he rotated strike quickly with ones and twos with Ajinkya Rahane finding the odd boundary in between from the other end.
The strategy continued for some time but now Royals now needed 80 runs from the last eight over. The biggest plus was that they had nine wickets in hand.
Toe-crushing yorker from Malinga
Rahane was dismissed by Shreyas Gopal as he tried to accelerate. In came young sensation Deepak Hooda and he started the fireworks straightaway by hitting two monstrous sixes off Gopal.
Malinga, though, sent the exciting youngster back with his toe-crushing yorker that rattled his stumps.
The pressure built up with required run-rate now little over 10 but Smith not only kept one end tight but also started to score more briskly. He reached his maiden IPL fifty with two consecutive boundaries off Malinga. In all he creamed off 15 runs from that 17th over.
Needing 12 from 12 balls, It was a cakewalk for Royals.
Earlier, the Royals bowlers, who had straight-jacketed the Mumbai batsmen for the major part of the innings, were clueless against the Caribbean stroke-maker and Anderson, who got life on 23 after being caught off a no ball.
Steven Smith used four different bowlers in the Power-play overs after being asked to bowl and the ploy worked as Mumbai could only manage 31 runs in six overs.
Aaron Finch retires hurt
Not only this, Mumbai opener Aaron Finch pulled a hamstring while attempting a single in the fourth over, bowled by Stuart Binny. Helped by teammates, Finch (10) limped back to the dugout, unable to keep his left leg on the ground.
Unmukt Chand joined Parthiv Patel at the crease but the left-hander offered a simple catch to Chris Morris off Dhawal Kulkarni to be dismissed for 16.
Kiwi paceman Tim Southee was very effective with his outswingers while Kulkarni also kept a very tight line. Binny too bowled a probing line and was rewarded soon as he scalped rival captain Rohit Sharma (0), who edged one to slips.
Leg-spinner Pravin Tambe was introduced and he struck immediately, castling Chand (12).
Such was the discipline and domination of the Royals' bowlers that Mumbai scored only 45 runs in 10 overs, managing only six shots to the fence.
Pollard broke the shackles by dispatching a Chris Morris delivery to boundary ropes and then Anderson lofted the same bowler two balls later for another four. The Caribbean smashed James Faulkner for a six over mid-wicket.
Anderson was caught off a no ball from Kulkarni and he made the Royals pay for that mistake immediately, hitting Southee for a massive six and followed it up with a four.
The two batsmen creamed off 17 runs from the 17th over by Faulkner as the run riot began.
# Just 12 needed off 12 balls for RR. Should be easy now. Smith and Faulkner still batting
# Final 5 overs - RR need 52 off 30. Smith and Faulkner at the crease. 7 wickets in hand
# RR 92/1 in 13 overs. 73 more to win off 42 balls. Sanju Samson out for 17 to R Vinay Kumar. Rahane and Smith at the crease
# Kieron Pollard and Corey Anderson's blazing half centuries rescued Mumbai Indians (MI) from early losses and lifted them to 164/5 in 20 overs against Rajasthan Royals (RR)
# Pollard blasted a 34-ball 70 while Anderson smashed 37-ball 50 to lead MI's recovery after they were reeling at 45/3 in 9.5 overs. The duo combined to plunder 104 runs in 9.1 overs for the fourth wicket. 81 runs came in the final five overs.
# 2 big overs for MI - 33 runs coming from them. Both Anderson and Pollard on the attack in the final overs. 116/3 in 17
# 5 overs remaining. MI 83/3 in 15. Anderson got a reprieve on the last ball of the 15th over. He was caught but Kulkarni had overstepped. Third umpire confirmed after watching replays
# Pollard and Anderson have helped MI recover. 74/3 in 14 overs now. If they both stay till the end, 130 plus score is a possibility
# HALFWAY - It has been RR's domination so far. MI have lost three wickets and the score is 45/3 in 10 overs. Kieron Pollard and Corey Anderson at the crease now.
# Rohit is out for a 5-ball duck. His second consecutive innings where he failed to score. He was dismissed for a 2-ball duck against Kings XI Punjab last match. MI in trouble at 31/2 in 6.3
# Rohit comes out to bat at No. 4. Parthiv dismissed by Dhawal Kulkarni for 16. MI 27/1 in 4.4 overs
# Aaron Finch retired hurt on 10 due to left leg injury while running between the wickets. He had to be carried off the field. Was in lot of discomfort. Unmukt Chand joins Parthiv Patel at the crease. MI 24/0 in 3.3
Toss - MI
MI captain Rohit Sharma won the toss and chose to bat first. MI have made three changes. Harbhajan Singh has missed out due to a sore neck while Ambati Rayudu and Aditya Tare have been dropped. RR are unchanged. Their captain Shane Watson is still to get fully fit and Steve Smith is leading again.
Unmukt Chand, Parthiv Patel and Shreyas Gopal have come in for MI. 2008 champions RR are unbeaten, having won both their matches while MI have lost both games so far.
Parthiv, making MI debut on his homeground, opened the batting with Aaron Finch. Rohit has decided to drop down the batting order.
IPL in the land of National T20 champions
Match is yet to start but 'RRvMI' is already trending on Twitter
Glenn Maxwell wishes the injured Finch speedy recovery