What Steven Smith did to MI bowlers was an event that was a sequel to Mumbai’s own initial blunders and some misfortune. Rohit Sharma and Mumbai’s top-heavy think-tank decided to bat first. In all likelihood, if they had lost the toss, Smith would have asked them to bat first as well. That is a conjecture now but it underlines Mumbai’s destiny in IPL8. Mumbai’s strategist decided that Rohit Sharma would not open the innings so they sent Parthiv Patel instead. In between, Mumbai suffered bad luck as Aaron Finch picked up a freak foot injury that ruled his out to bat any more. It was another blow to MI’s fledging batting line-up. Now the option of batting first resulted in the team score reaching 45/3 in 10th over and with Finch out of action it was virtually 45/4. Like Harbhajan and Suchit in MI’s last game against KXIP, they found two face savers in this match as well. Kieron Pollard and Corey Anderson bludgeoned the RR bowlers to add 119 in the next 10 overs and MI finished with a face-saving 164/5. However, one man ensured that MI would not defend that total. Leading his side from front, Steve Smith scored an unbeaten 79 off 53 balls. It was an act of perfectly anchoring the 165-run chase that left MI high and dry with a 7-wicket defeat in the end. Batting first or second, it was the second time in two matches that Mumbai were done in by their sluggish start.
Mumbai had a new opening pair after their loss in the previous match to KXIP. Rohit Sharma dropped himself lower in the order and promoted Parthiv Patel to open with Aaron Finch. For the first three overs, it looked as though MI had a taken a good decision as the openers added 22 runs. In the fourth over, however, just as Patel and Finch were stealing a single, a fielder’s through to the stumps struck Finch’s lower left foot. The batsman collapsed to the ground in pain and had to be taken out on shoulder support with two men on either side. Finch was seen unable to ground his left leg as he hobbled on the right and skip-jumped on his way out. In the fifth over, MI lost Parthiv Patel, when the batsman tried to hoist Dhawal Kulkarni over extra-cover but succeeded only in lobbing a catch to mid-off. Mumbai’s painful journey started now. Unmukt Chand and Rohit Sharma couldn’t push the scoring and to make matters worse, Sharma fell for a duck in the seventh over after facing 5 balls. Corey Anderson was the next batsman and he began well by a well-struck boundary. However, MI could only reach 45/3 in 10 overs with Unmukt Chand also falling to the guile of Praveen Tambe. Kieron Pollard and Anderson got into business of lifting MI out of the woods after such pathetic start and when Pollard got out at the end of 19th over, MI had recovered to 149/4. The scars of poor beginning, however, would torment Mumbai later. Anderson, Suchit and Gopal collected 15 runs in the last over and MI finished at 164 after 20. Pollard made 70 off 34, struck 7 fours and 5 sixes. Anderson remained unbeaten on a creditable 50 off 38 with 5 fours and 3 sixes.
Coming on to chase 165, RR openers did a good job of collecting 28 in the 5th over for the loss of Sanju Samson’s wicket. Ajinkya Rahane was stroking well on the other side and when he was joined by the determined Steve Smith, Rajasthan went on rollicking in their chase. Smith showed his class in this shortest format of the game without any sign of getting out. Rahane fell at 92 and Deepak Hooda came in. Smith on the other end was blazing away and RR was on course to an easy victory. Hooda stayed short, faced just 4 balls and finished with 13 off two sixes, when Malinga uprooted his stump. The score at that point was 113/3 in 14.5 overs and Rajasthan required 52 off 31 balls. With Smith in full blast and Faulkner giving him company, RR raced to the 7-wicket victory in the 20th over. MI bowlers had no teeth to trouble Smith or Faulkner as 5 balls still remained in the match.
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