IPL 2017, RPS vs MI: Steve Smith, Ajinkya Rahane star in thrillerhttps://indianexpress.com/article/sports/cricket/ipl-2017-10/rps-vs-mi-steve-smith-ajinkya-rahane-star-in-thriller-4602726/

IPL 2017, RPS vs MI: Steve Smith, Ajinkya Rahane star in thriller

Needing 10 off 3, Steve Smith (84*) hits consecutive sixes to help Rising Pune Supergiant (187/3) beat Mumbai Indians (184/8) by seven wickets in their IPL opener.

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Smith, captaining RPS for the first time, smashed seven fours and three sixes in his knock of 84 runs. (Source: BCCI)

IT was down to the 20th over of the innings. The over which did change the complexion of the match when Mumbai Indians were batting, the and equation in which Rising Pune Supergiants found themselves in when Rohit Sharma gave the ball to Kieron Pollard. Jasprit Bumrah bowled a brilliant 19th over to set up the game for an exciting finish. 20 from 12 deliveries was never going to be a tough ask with Steve Smith and MS Dhoni in the middle but Bumrah’s seven-run over, which could have been six-run over and a wicket if Tim Southee wouldn’t have dropped Dhoni, raised the tension in the middle. Pollard was given the responsibility and he did a stunning job for the first three deliveries.

The all-rounder mixed it well and only allowed three singles, and made the equation in Mumbai’s favour. From 13 off 6, it came down to only 10 off 3 and Smith took strike for the all important delivery. Bang, the skipper went over long-on and followed it up with a flick over mid-wicket to seal the game in emphatic fashion – with consecutive sixes. It was a special knock by the skipper as he remained unbeaten on 84 off 54 and accelerated after a watchful start to his innings. He had Dhoni for company but the former Indian skipper didn’t quite find the zone he, and the fans, were hoping for.

While Dhoni found it hard, Ajinkya Rahane, like his Australian counterpart from the Dharamsala Test, made a smooth transition from the whites into coloured clothing. Chasing 185, a good start was required. And, the elegant right-hander didn’t disappoint. It wasn’t about the monster sixes or cheeky hits but elegant strokeplay. The opener got Pune off to a flier and hit his fastest IPL fifty in the process, coming off only 27 deliveries. Smith was more of a happy spectator when Rahane went about doing business with absolute class but switched roles with ease when the latter was dismissed. There were still enough runs to be scored but Pune had enough depth in the batting to avoid any panic in the dug out. Out came Ben Stokes, impressed and left. It was a complete Smith show  after that as Dhoni could only hit one boundary in the 12 deliveries he faced.

What looked like a calculated chase, did turn out to be a tense one after Mumbai’s decent show in the death overs, and it wasn’t just restricted to the ball.

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Put into bat by RPS earlier, MI were off the blocks in a hurry as Parthiv Patel and Jos Buttler took the hosts’ bowlers to the cleaners. Buttler destructed with a 18-ball 38 before Imran Tahir, introduced inside the powerplay, turned it Pune’s way. Released by Delhi Daredevils and unsold in the auction, Tahir stole the show with a fine spell (3/28) of bowling. It started with bowling Patel round his legs, continued when he castled Rohit Sharma and ended on a dominating note when the leggie trapped Buttler in front. Yes, Buttler did hit that one but everything, including the umpire’s call, went Tahir’s way.

The middle-order collapse found the visitors struggling to even get 150 and with Pollard’s departure in the 19th over it seemed that 160+ would be luxury from that stage. Hardik Pandya was still in the middle but he hadn’t hit the top gear yet. Struggling to find momentum after Tahir’s spell, Mumbai hit the right note when Southee hit the last delivery of the 19th for a six. The total was pushed to 154/7 and 160+ was very much on the cards.

Death bowling was the concern for Pune right through the last season, and Thursday was no different. 6 6 6 4 W (wd) 6 1. Pandya punished Ashoke Dinda in the 20th over to give the total a massive push. From 154/7, Mumbai ended with 184/7 and it seemed like GAME ON from that stage. It. however, wasn’t the case as the visitors, after doing everything right in the first 20th over of the match, couldn’t do the same when they took field and bowled the 20th. The 20-20 contest did wear a different look after Pandya’s heroics but Smith kept his cool in the second 20th to seal the game for Pune and get the campaign off to a winning start.