Mumbai Indians v Rajasthan Royals
Sun 13th May 2018
Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai

With Rajasthan Royals lying sixth in the IPL table and Mumbai Indians one place higher going into this contest, both teams with five wins and 10 points, only separated by run rate, this was a crucial match at the business end of the tournament with the play offs beckoning. A win here would not only deliver an invaluable 2 points, it would also be a massive confidence booster for whoever emerged victorious.

The Royals got off to a good start with skipper Rahane winning the toss and electing to chase, not surprising bearing in mind his team won the last chase against Mumbai and won the last match thrillingly batting second against CSK.

Krishnappa Gowtham was asked to bowl the first over, perhaps one of Mumbai Indians’ least favourite players after his batting heroics in the previous fixture, and he started well with two dot balls. But the third and fourth balls were both sent to the boundary by Mumbai opener Suryakumar – too much width and not enough turn – and the last ball was dispatched by Lewis for another four. 14 off the over and not a great start by us.

Kulkarni bowled the second over and almost got a wicket first ball – Gowtham spilling a tough chance at mid on. The fifth ball also went in the air – but just eluded Archer. Only six runs from the over and a good start from Kulkarni. Archer bowled the third over – indications were that this pitch would have pace and bounce, very different to the Jaipur track the Royals had won on in the last two matches. They’d have to adapt their game quickly! Archer had bowled a few wides against CSK – and he soon bowled another one here, but his next two balls were beauties. One hit Suryakumar on the gloves and the other went high into the night sky. But Binny totally misjudged it and it fell to the earth. With just three overs gone, two clear catches and a half chance had all gone down. Hopefully the Royals wouldn’t end up rueing those missed opportunities…

Kulkarni was summoned to bowl the fourth over in the powerplay. Two fours from it and the Indians were on 34 for no wicket – an ominous start by the opposition. Stokes bowled the fifth over and the first ball was thick edged for four. Nothing seemed to be going the Royals way. Interestingly Kularni was asked to bowl his third over and the last over the powerplay. It was something of a gamble by Rahane as the Mumbai openers might have ‘lined him’ up somewhat and got used to his angles and variations. Two more boundaries from the over and Mumbai 51 for the loss of no wickets at the end of the powerplay. The Royals bowlers and no doubt about it fielders needed to get a grip to avoid this match, and their play off hopes, slipping away from them.

Gopal’s leg spin was summoned to try to slow things down in the seventh. Surely Mentor Warne, sat in the dug out, will have spent some time before the match with this particular protégé – the leg spinners union comparing notes on how to contain batsmen in this form of the game – and the tips seem to have been absorbed well by the Royal rookie. Only four runs came from his over and the batsmen suddenly weren’t timing the ball quite so well.

Unadkat got his first over of the match in over 8 – and he will have been anxious to impress after a mixed tournament so far. His set of six went for 7 runs, which was a sign things were settling down a bit, but Rajasthan needed wickets to try to put the cat amongst the Mumbai pigeons and the way things were going both openers looked well set and unlikely to go cheaply. That fear was confirmed at the top of ninth with two big sixes flying off Lewis’s bat. Poor Binny must have been kicking himself about giving Lewis a second life early doors

when he was on just 5. At the end of the ninth over Mumbai were well placed on 79 – 0 and a mammoth total was in the offing. However, the Royals have slowed teams down in the past after they’ve got off to rapid starts – perhaps this would be another such occasion?

For that to happen bowlers like Unadkat had to start to throw the batsmen off with clever variations – and that is what Jinks would have been hoping when he chose him to bowl the tenth over. It went for 7 – not too bad but there was never a sense that either batsmen was in danger of surrendering their wicket. At the half way stage Mumbai were on 86 -0 and someone in Royals colours needed to make something happen quick.

Would it be Jofra Archer? He has been the go to man in the past when wickets are needed. In over 11 he opted not to go for raw pace but instead to try to unsettle the batsmen with variations – and it worked brilliantly. At long last a catch was taken in the deep – this time by Unadkat – and Yadav was out for 38 from 31 balls. Any delight from the Royals team and fans would have been tempered however by the sight of Rohit Sharma striding to the crease. The captain of the opposition has a habit of taking on opposing bowlers and stamping his authority on games. But not this time! Out first ball! To the same fielder – Unadkat picking a screamer out of the sky from in front of his nose. It was going like a bullet – if he hadn’t caught it he would have been wearing it. But he did and Sharma was trudging back to the shed – a crucial wicket at a crucial time. Yet again Archer had made things happen – what a talent! Jofra “X Factor” Archer works his magic!

Gowtham bowled the next over looking to continue the Royal recovery, but a massive six from Lewis put paid to that hope and took him to 50. Stokes bowled the 13th over and it only went for 4, but the primary objective was to get Lewis out as he was starting to look very dangerous and we didn’t want him batting all the way through by any stretch of the imagination. Kulkarni must have been ruing Lewis’s second life as he watched the ball sail over his head and into the stand at the top the 14th over. However, that second life wasn’t to lead to a third as Sanju Samson plucked the ball out of the air at deep midwicket and Kulkarni could celebrate his first wicket of the match in his fourth and final over. Lewis’s 60 from 42 balls had been a great innings – but thankfully it was over.

Two new batsmen – Kishan and Hardik were now at the crease. If the Royals could contain them then perhaps the target wouldn’t be quite so astronomical after all. And if we could get one of them out quickly then all the better – and that is exactly what happened, Sanju Samson taking another wonderful catch off the bowling of Stokes to remove Kishan for 12 and make it Samson 2 – Unadkat 2 – and the Mumbai Indians suddenly not looking so comfortable on 119 for 4 in the 15th over. It had been a good fightback by Rajasthan, but there was still much work to do.

Two tight overs from Stokes and Archer helped – so at the end of 16 overs Mumbai were 128 for 4 and their expectations – and Royals fears – were being downgraded. The next four overs would prove crucial in determining the fate of this game. Would Mumbai struggle to 150ish? Or would they enjoy a late run spurt and reach 180 plus?

It was a time for cool hearts and minds – and the correct execution of tactics. Plus no more drops please – and Gowtham almost defied that request when Unadkat deceived Krunal into skying the ball and he juggled the chance, but took it at the second attempt. Phew! Krunal out for just 3 and the Mumbai Innings were in the middle of a collapse. The last five overs had gone for just 34 runs and three wickets had been taken. Yet again the Royals bowlers were pulling their team back from the brink.

Now the Indians batsmen were looking to push singles rather than pepper the stands. Archer’s last over went for just four runs and his figures were again impressive – 2o for 16 from his four overs. Jofra just loves bowling Jaffas and the Royals fans love them too! It was

all going so well, until Unadkat was asked to bowl the 19th over and Hardik took a liking to what he was receiving. 6, 4, wide, 6 – not good. And then Archer drops a sitter off the fifth ball! 37 runs from his four overs and Unadkat would not be a happy chappy between innings.

Going into the last over, Mumbai were 155 for 5 and Stokes would have been hoping for single figures off his last set of six. It wasn’t to be – with 13 runs flowing from the bat - but the Royals fans were able to enjoy one of the best catches of their lifetimes with Sanju sprawling at deep midwicket to take a skier one handed. What an unbelievable effort – and much needed after the drop the over before. How we can keep dropping the simple chances but successfully snare scorchers the cricket gods will only know…

The Mumbai Indians ended on 168 for 6 – slightly under par but still a challenging total. The start the Royals make, and Jos Buttler not getting out early, would be very important in determining whether Royals fans go to bed happy tonight.

First ball, Bumrah to Short – inside edge – 4. Second ball – four wides down leg. Liking this start, although the ball did swing like a boomerang, which was a bit worrying. And those worries were well founded – as soon as Bumrah got his radar right Short edged him to the keeper and he was gone for 4. That dismissal brought the skipper to the crease – and he opened his account with a beautifully driven 4. 13 from the first over – good. A lost wicket. Bad. Could Rahane and Buttler combine to build a platform that would sooth anxious Royalista nerves?

The second over was bowled by Mitchell McClenaghan - and only went for four runs. Batting wasn’t looking easy. Pandya bowled the third over and it looked like caution was the aim of the game for the Royals pair. A couple of singles – keeping it safe, but then a heart in the mouths moment. Had Buttler been caught? The third umpire said No – it had bounced just before the fielder. Phew! 23 for 1 from three overs and it was all looking a bit nervy out in the middle.

A big over would settle everyone down – would over 4 be what the doctor ordered? McClenaghan again. Ten from it – that’s more like it, and two lovely fours down to fine leg from Jinks. Spinner Krunal bowled the fourth over and was soon dispatched to the boundary inside out thanks to some fancy footwork from Buttler. Next ball sent for six – just evading deep square leg’s fingers. 11 runs off that over – and it could have been more if fielders hadn’t got in the way of some of Buttler’s blasters. The sixth over was bowled by Hardik and the Royals batsmen were hoping to keep their momentum going. It wasn’t quite as productive but at the end of the powerplay Rajasthan were 51 for 1 and quite well placed. Crucially Buttler and Rahane were still at the crease. A big partnership from them and the game could be well on the way to going in Rajasthan’s direction.

Joss started to go for two main options with his strokes – ‘Dilshans’ (not successful) and ‘stand and deliver’ hitting it straight back over the bowler’s head (very successful). Three lusty Buttler blows saw the Royals to 66 for 1 from eight overs. In previous matches Jos had slowed down somewhat after a rapid start. This innings wasn’t so explosive in it’s early stages but was still proving effective. With Rahane chugging along nicely at the other end both batsmen were going for a risk averse strategy – with the occasional big shot just to keep the fans on their toes, like a massive six from Buttler off the last bowl of Markande’s second over At the half way stage the Royals were 83 for 1 and in good shape. Some Royals fans might have been thinking “let’s get these runs fast and boost our run rate!” but cricket is a fickle mistress – those ideas had to be put into a locker and the key thrown away into a deep river.

At the end of the 12th over Buttler brought up yet another superb fifty, his fifth on the trot, what fine form he is in – this one coming from 35 balls. If he could preserve his wicket then the Royals would make it home for sure.

70 runs required from 48 balls going into the 13th over – and things were looking good. But then Rahane perished to a catch at long off and with the score on 104 the Mumbai Indians sniffed blood. Samson next at the crease. This pitch was very different to what he had been playing on in Jaipur – how quickly could he adapt? If half as fast as Jos then we would be in good shape. The Englishman went from 55 to 65 in two shots. Has the IPL even seen such a rich vein of form?

At the end of the 14th over the ask was 51 from 36 balls. Is Jos survived then it would be a formality. The sensible thing for Samson to do was push singles and let his English team mate have the strike – and that’s exactly what he did. Soon he was dispensing Bumrah for ten runs in two balls. The Mumbai Indians fans looked forlorn – they realised they were watching an exceptional unbeatable talent.

At the end of the 15th over the Royals were 132 for 2 and almost home and hosed. Sanju started to find his feet and played a lovely fine Dilshan / sweep for four down to fine leg. Then a single – such mature, sensible batting from the gifted young Indian star When he got back on strike he smacked a four straight down the ground. Like Buttler he can score runs in all areas of the park.

With four overs to go and the score on 144 for 2 some fans might have been thinking it was just now a question of whether Buttler would get a century or not. He was on 83 and 24 runs were required. But again – those thoughts had to be locked away – cricket has no room for complacency and this game was far too important for such nonsense. Let’s just get the two points guys!

Another four from Jos in the 17th over left us needing 16 from 18 balls (and whisper it – Jos needing 12 for his ton!). Sanju decided to finish it in a hurry – clearly thinking about the importance of net run rate – and quite right too. A couple of big sixes helped in that regard massively – although it was a shame when he holed out to deep cover. It was an excellent 26 from 14 balls though, and when he was out only four were needed to win from the last 13 balls.

It was no surprise when Buttler did it in one ball – with a massive six! Wow – what another amazing knock. Another not out 90 – and again he’d seen his team home almost single handedly – but not quite. There were sterling support efforts among his team mates.

The Royals up to fifth in the table – with 12 points and an improved net run rate of -0.35. Play off positions here we come!

Halla Bol!

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