Mumbai Indians 94 for 2 (Kishan 50*, Rohit 22) beat Rajasthan Royals 90 for 9 (Coulter-Nile 4-14, Neesham 3-12, Bumrah 2-14) by eight wickets.
In what was a do or die encounter for Mumbai Indians (MI), the defending champions not only secured the vital 2 points but the emphatic margin of victory also meant that they significantly improved their NRR.
MI were aggressive from the team selection itself where they packed the side with 3 pacers on a sticky slow wicket while the temptation would have been to go with the slow spinners. They relied on the experience and ability of the pacers to vary the pace and bowl off cutters.
Rohit won the toss and elected to bowl and though he looked unsure of his decision at the toss, it was also backed by the fact that in the last games on this ground, the side batting 2nd had chased down the target. This decision paid dividends almost immediately. Openers Evin Lewis and Yashasvi Jaiswal started well for Rajasthan Royals (RR) as they raced to 26-0 in the first 3 overs, 15 of which came off Jayant Yadav in the 2nd over. Jaiswal was out edging a Coulter-Nile delivery to Ishan and Lewis almost immediately followed him back to the pavilion, trying to play a pull shot on a low slow Sharjah wicket. Still the score read a healthy 41/2 at the end of the powerplay. What transpired after that was almost inexplicable. If the first 6 overs yielded 41 runs, the next 14 overs went for only 49 runs & RR lost 7 wickets in the process. Admittedly, the wicket was not as true as what one would see at Abu Dhabi but none of the batsmen looked willing to graft themselves and pick up the singles and doubles.
The 3 pacers, Bumrah, NCN & Neesham bowled in smart areas, varied their pace and length and kept the batsmen at bay. Together they combined to have a brilliant pack hunting spell of 9 for 40 in 12 overs. The RR batsmen on the other hand got themselves bogged down and instead of coming to terms with the pitch, they tried to hit themselves out of trouble with extravagant shots, instead of just rotating the strike and waiting for the loose balls.
Samson was out cheaply immediately after the powerplay and with 5 wickets down for 50 in the 1st 10 overs, MI dug out was all smiles. RR played out the 20 overs to end at 90/9. None of the batsmen could adjust to the nature of the wicket and instead of learning from the mistakes of the previous batsmen, they went on to add a few more of their own. RR’s score of 90/9 is now the 2nd lowest score in the IPL for any team playing out all 20 overs. The lowest is 84/8 by KKR in 2020. This is also RR’s 1st sub 100 score since 2011.
MI started their reply with a bang with Rohit spanking Mustafizur for a 14 run 1st over including a 4 & a 6. Ishan played out the 2nd over as a maiden from Sakariya. Samson fluffed an easy stumping off Rohit but that did not prove too costly as Rohit was out soon after with a stroke filled 22 of 13 balls. In the process, he became the 1st Indian n and the 7th overall batsman to hit 400 sixes in T20s. Even as Rohit departed, Ishan took control and with Suryakumar Yadav went hammer and tongs at the RR bowling.
As Rohit would admit at the post match interview, MI wanted to see if they can attack and get the runs in the first few overs and target for NRR. That ploy worked like a charm as MI chased down the score in just 8.2 overs, which included a 24 run 8th over from Sakariya laced with 2 no-balls; a criminal luxury that a team cant afford in low scoring games. Ishan remained unbeaten on 50 in 25 balls, a much needed confidence booster for him ahead of the next matches and also the T20 World Cup. With 70 balls to spare when MI reached their target, it is now the 5th biggest margin of victory in terms of balls left, across every IPL season and the 2nd largest for MI (the largest being 87 balls v/s KKR in 2008).
Both of MI changes paid instant dividends. Ishan held on to his catches behind the stump and his 50* at a blistering pace just snuffed the life out of RR. Neesham’s selection over Krunal would have raised a few eyebrows but he repaid the confidence with a spell of 4-0-12-3. NCN picked up the Man of the Match award for his spell that read 4-0-14-4.
RR have literally shut the door on themselves with this massive loss. Though, mathematically possible but for all practical purposes they are out of the race for the 4th spot. They could do MI a big favour by winning their game against KKR. MI will have to wait and watch the KKR v/s RR game and if KKR does win, MI will have to have a very huge win to edge out KKR on NRR.
The race for top 4 is in its final lap and while CSK, DC and RCB have confirmed their berths, 2 exciting matches at the final stretch will decide on the qualifier #4. What better advertisement for IPL than to have the last match decide the final 4. Stay tuned for more action.