Sharma comes to the party

MI ride on batsman’s 39-ball 79 to beat KXIP by four runs in a close encounter

Written by Bharat Sundaresan | Mumbai | Published: April 30, 2013 2:23:49 am

By now we know Dwayne Smith’s ability to smash a cricket ball is common knowledge. Equally unquestioned is Kieron Pollard’s ability,during his four season long association with the IPL,to bring down stray flying objects anywhere near his airspace. Not too many,in the recent history of the game can lay claim to have created a penchant for producing gravity-defying leaps near the boundary ropes and grabbing onto cricket balls,often single-handedly,in jaw-dropping fashion.

The shock-value though is peerless on each occasion,as was the case when he plucked out a one-handed blinder at the long-on fence to get rid of opener Shaun Marsh,during Mumbai Indians game against Kings XI Punjab.

Apart from its awe-inspiring impact,the Pollard special also helped Mumbai Indians get rid of their major threat in the Punjab camp as the visitors set about chasing down their massive target of 175. And as always,the ebullient Mumbai talisman celebrated his momentous feat in style,setting off on a ‘catch me if you can’ victory lap.

Speaking of post-catch revelries,Sachin Tendulkar’s display of emotion at the Wankhede Stadium on Monday after snaring regulation catches in the outfield will not be outdone any time soon. While the first of the catches he claimed he rejoiced with a show of angst,clenching his fists and looking heavenwards,the second was followed by a show of great relief. Understandably so.

Kings go down fighting David Miller and Praveen Kumar did,after all threaten to snatch a dramatic victory from nowhere with some lusty,imperious hitting towards the death overs of Punjab’s chase. The left-handed South African in particular looked like he could do it on his own.

And while he remained at the crease,Punjab even looked the favourites,despite the steep ask. Wickets kept tumbling at the other end but Miller,who finished with a 34-ball 56,never seemed wary of chancing his arm and targeting the upper tiers around the stadium.

In all,he hit five sixes,each traveling at the rate of knots from the meat of his blade. Just when he looked set to take his team home for the second occasion in IPL VI,Miller’s luck ran out and he hit a low full-toss from Mitchell Johnson into Tendulkar’s eager hands.

The danger wasn’t over yet for the hosts as Kumar then took over the mantle of playing party-pooper,smashing a six off the penultimate delivery of the innings from Dhawal Kulkarni to leave Punjab with five to get off the final ball. Unfortunately,all he managed to do was scoop a full-toss in Tendulkar’s direction again,ensuring Mumbai’s third straight victory in the competition.

While the Punjab tail valiantly brought the night alive at Wankhede,the first half of the contest belonged to the sublime class of Mumbai skipper Rohit Sharma. Regardless of his mediocre returns in international cricket,the IPL has remained the elegant right-hander’s oyster. And once again,he strode to the centre and hogged the limelight during Mumbai’s innings,stroking boundaries with characteristic élan at the start of his innings before turning into a destroyer towards the end.

Sharma was forced to steady the ship after a flurry of early wickets and once he had done that,he opened his shoulders and launched a beastly attack on the Punjab bowlers,smashing six sixes in all,three in the 20th over where he bludgeoned David Hussey for 27 runs.

His unbeaten 39-ball 79 was as always a show-stopping performance. Eventually,it also proved to be the difference between the two teams along with Pollard’s outlandish acrobatics later in the evening.

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