Mumbai Indians has the last laugh


Poised on the precipice, Mumbai Indians, powered by Mitchell Johnson’s stupendous bowling (three for 26) at the death, sneaked home to its third title in the Indian Premier League at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium on Sunday night.

Rising Pune Supergiant, shepherded by skipper Steve Smith’s masterly 51, requiring 11 off the last over, fell a run short in what could be its last hurrah, unless the championship is expanded to 10 teams in the next season.

For Mumbai skipper Rohit Sharma, he was party to a fourth title, three as captain and earlier with the now-defunct Deccan Chargers. Whirling arms, wiles and guiles, Jasprit Bumrah’s bootlace bombs swung things Mumbai’s way. He drew blood first, rapping Rahul Tripathi on the pads. On his second spell, he got M.S. Dhoni, promoted to two-down, caught behind by Parthiv Patel, a blow that perhaps impacted Pune more than it would have wished.

Ajinkya Rahane (44, 5×4) nearly perished on 14, lobbing Lasith Malinga to Krunal Pandya, who spilt the chance at cover. Off the next over, the stylish striker sent the Sri Lankan slinger to the fence, this time with a full-blooded hit.

With Pune in charge for most of the chase, the reprieve for Rahane could have proved costly, the placid-faced Pune batsman despatching Johnson to the Mumbai dugout, as if to rub it in.

Bringing right knee down to the turf, he swept Pandya to long-leg. His captain Steve Smith was content playing second fiddle. Rahane departed six short of a half-century, picked up by long-on, Kieron Pollard, clutching the catch inches above the grass.

Lowest total
Earlier, Mumbai skidded to the lowest total in a final when batting first, logging 129 for eight. The previous nadir was Deccan Chargers’ 143 at Johannesburg in 2009, while the all-time depths were plumbed by Chennai Super Kings’ 125 against Mumbai Indians in 2013.

Pune’s wicket-to-wicket assault left little room for Mumbai openers Lendl Simmons and Parthiv Patel but scamper for singles. Throttled thus in the first two overs, Parthiv grew restless and reckless too. Taking a swipe across at a rising Unadkat delivery, he spooned a simple catch to Shardul Thakur at mid-on. Parthiv’s partner fell three balls later, Simmons’ leading edge lapped up by a leaping Unadkat, raking up the catch with his ring finger and off his own bowling.

If Pune’s new ball operators Unadkat and Washington Sundar were miserly, Shardul Thakur was no less niggardly, keeping the explosive pair of Rohit Sharma and Ambati Rayudu on a tight leash. Mumbai’s first boundary came in the sixth over, from Rohit’s pat off Lockie Ferguson.

In fine touch
Slopping talent like a careless barman spilling expensive drinks, Mumbai’s captain barely brought blade to ball to send it racing to the ropes four times in that over off the Kiwi seamer.

Rayudu was ‘thrown out’ by mid-off Smith’s direct hit to the non-striker’s end. The Hyderabad-born batsman had set out for a sharp single.

It was Adam Zampa who struck the next blow. Rohit’s pull to mid-wicket found Thakur take an outstanding catch, his balancing act to hold the lofted shot well within the bounds of the taped hoardings skirting the boundary.

The eighth-wicket pair of Krunal (47, 3×4, 2×6) and Johnson provided the proverbial lash from the lower order, mopping up Mumbai’s most valuable partnership of 50.

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