James Faulkner’s delivery of the 16th over was short and reared off a good length. Keiron Pollard pulled him with utter disdain over deep midwicket for a boundary. Faulkner followed it up with a fuller delivery, and this time Pollard slammed it over long off for a maximum. The Australian left-armer scratched his head as he retraced his steps. He seemed clueless. Faulkner’s reaction just summed up Rajasthan Royals’ reaction to the Trinidadian giant’s brutal assault at the Motera on Tuesday.
For most part, the Royals did the right thing after their captain Steven Smith lost the toss and was asked to bowl. However, they had no answer to Pollard. Coming in to bat at the fall of Unmukt Chand in the 10th over, Pollard was circumspect early on. In between keeping the scoreboard ticking, he gave glimpses of his intent, as he clipped Chris Morris over long on for a boundary. But the scoreboard was not moving fast enough to Mumbai Indians’ liking. After 13 overs, they had managed 61 for the loss of three wickets.
The pitch favoured uneven bounce and playing shots on the up looked difficult. Mumbai needed to score at least 150 to put up a realistic chance of giving Royals a fight. At that stage such a score looked distant. However, Pollard had other ideas as Rajasthan found out soon enough. What followed in the last seven overs was pure carnage.
Pollard was brutal on anything that was short of length. If the bowlers pitched it up he would smack them off the park. Batting looked easy at the two-paced Motera when Pollard was at the crease. He found an ally in Corey Anderson. Together they put on a fifth-wicket stand of 104 in just 9 overs. The duo kept it simple. Their plan was to get a boundary or a six of the first ball of every over, thereby putting the bowler under pressure. It was a calculated risk, but it paid rich dividends. If Pollard creamed Faulkner and Pravin Tambe at the beginning of the 13th and 17th overs, respectively, Anderson took a liking to fellow countryman Tim Southee and welcomed him in the 16th over with a six and a four off successive deliveries. Pollard departed at the end of the 19th, after scoring 70. But the job was done. He had taken his side close to 150.
BE it Wankhede or the Motera, it is the same old story for the Mumbai Indians. Their top order’s poor run has really hurt them this season. Against Kings XI Punjab, it was Harbhajan Singh’s late-order heroics that almost saved the day for them after the top order collapsed under the pace of Johnson and Co. On Tuesday, on a spicy Motera wicket, none of Mumbai top order got going. Parthiv Patel played a few pleasing strokes and got out. Captain Rohit Sharma and Chand found the going tough against the swing of Dhawal Kulkarni and Stuart Binny. Had it not been the late-order carnage from Anderson and Pollard, Mumbai would not have managed 164.
The Royals, in search of their third consecutive win, began on a sedate note. A score of 165 was not going to be easy on an up-and-down Motera wicket. The start was going to be the key. Sanju Samson began with a couple of square drives off Pawan Suyal in the second over to get going. However, Vinay Kumar at the other end was getting the ball to swing. He was not bowling at express pace, but managed to extract the optimum from the pitch to keep Samson and Ajinkya Rahane guessing. Boundaries were initially hard to come by and the openers did well to rotate the strike and keep the scoreboard ticking. Samson got out despite getting a start. He was undone by the uneven pace of the pitch for 17. The Kerala lad got a leading edge after trying to work a good length Vinay Kumar delivery on the on side. The scorecard read 1/28.
His dismissal brought captain Smith to the wicket. The asking rate was stiff. Boundaries were hard to come by. The impressive thing about the duo was they did not panic. They paced their innings beautifully and ran hard between the wickets, converting the ones into twos. In between whenever they got a loose delivery, they dispatched it with ease.
The pair put on 64 runs in 9 overs before Rahane departed for 46. The asking rate had now climbed to over 10 runs per over. In walked Rajasthan’s in-form batsman Deepak Hooda. He announced his arrival with successive hits over the fence off Shreyas Gopal. He was dismissed to a beautiful yorker off Lasith Malinga for 13. Mumbai looked on top now. Royals needed 52 in the last five overs.
The situation demanded a calm head, and that’s what they got, courtesy their captain. Smith has been in phenomenal form throughout the Australian summer, and he carried that sunshine to the IPL. Two back-to-back boundaries off Malinga in the 17th over not only brought up his maiden IPL fifty, it also put the Royals in a position of ascendancy. No matter what was dished out to the Australian, he answered with utmost ease. The 25-year-old’s counterattacking blitz at the end stole the thunder from Pollard and Anderson. Smith’s exquisite cover drive off Malinga’s final ball in the 19th over all but sealed Mumbai’s fate.
As it happened…
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