Krunal, Rohit reinvigorate Mumbai’s campaign

Mumbai Indians captain Rohit Sharma plays a shot during match 14 of the Vivo Indian Premier League ( IPL ) 2016 between the Mumbai Indians and the Royal Challengers Bangalore held at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai on the 20th April 2016 Photo by Vipin Pawar/ IPL/ SPORTZPICS

Rohit Sharma returned to a familiar batting position that has brought him considerable success to thwart Royal Challengers Bangalore’s designs on a flat Wankhede deck as Mumbai Indians reinvigorated their campaign with a six-wicket win. Promoting himself to open, Rohit made a 44-ball 62 as Mumbai overhauled Royal Challengers’ 170 for 7 with 12 balls to spare.

The manner in which he slid back into the crease to direct the ball with his wrists behind point, used his powerful forearms to flick, danced down the track to pull the ball into the stands at long-on and deep midwicket with minimum effort pointed to ominous signs. His batting was in fluid motion as he took charge of the chase along with Ambati Rayudu, anything but elegant, yet equally effective in his 31.

The second-wicket stand of 76 in 55 balls laid the groundwork of the chase, before qbal Abdulla gave Royal Challengers a new lease of life by dismisisng Rayudu and Rohit, both to slogs. Mumbai were at 109 for 3, needing 62 off eight overs. But by then, the chase was well into the home stretch as dew took effect. Jos Buttler and Kieron Pollard, returning from food poisoning, flexed their muscle by hitting five sixes between them Mumbai recorded their second win in five matches.

Halfway into the first innings, Mumbai, who opted to bowl, were staring at a 200-plus target as Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers feasted on some friendly bowling during the course of a 59-run stand, before the unheralded players, in what was billed as a battle of two heavyweight teams, rose to the occasion.

Krunal Pandya’s twin strikes of Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers in the space of five deliveries stunned Royal Challengers. Then Travis Head, on IPL debut, and Sarfaraz Khan lifted Royal Challengers from 99 for 4 to 170 for 7.

Frenetic action highlighted the first 20 minutes. KL Rahul, after being hit on the helmet, was put through a short-ball test in a hostile burst by Mitchell McClenaghan. After the early jitters, he ramped and slapped his way to 23 before being caught in the slips. Kohli and de Villiers then counterpunched with a typically aggressive 59-run stand before three wickets in the space of eight runs resulted in a complete breakdown in momentum.

Head took his time to settle in, the nervousness clearly showing as he pushed and prodded his way for nine deliveries before exhibiting his ball-striking power to swat Hardik Pandya for six over deep square leg in the 15th over to revive Royal Challengers’ innings. Sarfaraz showed there is more to his game than just the scoops and paddles as he milked the spinners, before clubbing Jasprit Bumrah for two successive sixes in the final over.

Mumbai lost Parthiv Patel in the second over, but Varun Aaron’s third over, which went for 19, brought the chase back on track. Once the uncapped Indian bowlers were summoned, a game that was only marginally tilted in Mumbai’s favour turned decisively in their direction. Abdullah’s three wickets injected artificial excitement, but any possibility of a close finish was firmly put on the backburner courtesy Pollard’s charge.