x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

IPL: Mumbai Indians stay strong in clash with Rajasthan Royals

Rajasthan fought hard to keep them down to 166 on a belter of a batting surface, but they did not get the rub of the green as they slumped to a 14-run defeat.

File picture of Mumbai Indians cricketers celebrating from last year. Indranil Mukherjee / AFP
File picture of Mumbai Indians cricketers celebrating from last year. Indranil Mukherjee / AFP

Toss Rajasthan, chose to field
Mumbai Tare 59, Maxwell 23; Watson 2-30, Faulkner 2-32
Rajasthan Hodge 39; Binny 37 n.o; Kulkarni 2-21, Johnson 2-23
Man of the match Aditya Tare (Mumbai)

If Rajasthan Royals have been the sly foxes of the sixth edition of the Indian Premier League, Mumbai Indians have been the elephant in the jungle.

Mumbai might be a touch predictable at times, and work to a set plan, but when it does come off, they end up trampling whoever is in their path.

Faced with a resonable stiff target last night, Rajasthan fought hard to keep them down to 166 on a belter of a batting surface, but they did not get the rub of the green as they slumped to a 14-run defeat.

Rajasthan, who had chosen to chase when Rahul Dravid won the toss, needed to get off to a good start. What they got was anything but. Dravid was sent back in the very first over, with the umpire detecting a faint edge where there was none. Dravid, late on the pull against Mitchell Johnson, stood his ground momentarily, uncharacteristically venting his ire.

With the captain gone before the chase had really got under way, there was more trouble as James Faulkner, sent in to pinch-hit at No 3, sliced Dhawal Kulkarni up in the air to be easily caught.

Sanju Samson mis-hit a pull and when Ajinkya Rahane holed out, Rajasthan were 28 for four.

It has been Rajasthan's strategy to hold back their big guns based on the situation. When Shane Watson walked out at No 5, he was welcomed by a chirpy Kieron Pollard. There is no love lost between the two since Australia's last tour of West Indies in February. The umpires stepped in to calm things down, but Watson went to work.

Lasith Malinga, not quite at his fittest and down on pace, chose the wrong man to try to bounce, and was flat-batted into the crowd over fine leg. The next ball got the same result. Perhaps buoyed by those strokes, Watson took on Pragyan Ojha, but failed to connect cleanly, leaving a gleeful Pollard to take the catch.

Furious with himself, Watson trudged back to the dugout, only to find that Pollard had finished his exuberant celebration and landed up there, prompting a further exchange of words.

Stuart Binny and Brad Hodge added 56 for the seventh wicket, keeping hopes alive.

When Hodge (39) was nailed in front of the stumps by a Malinga yorker with an unlikely 23 runs needed off the final over, the game was up and Binny was left unconquered on a 29-ball 37.

Aditya Tare, playing his first game of this season, set up the first 20 overs. Tare, filling in for the injured Sachin Tendulkar, smacked a 39-ball 57 at the top of the order.

With no other batsman reaching 25, and yet several playing useful cameos, Mumbai got to 166 for eight. It was enough to take them to the top of the table.

Anand Vasu is managing editor of Wisden India.

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