The Mumbai Indians will head into the VIVO IPL 2017 Playoffs as table-toppers. On Saturday evening at the Eden Gardens, they defeated the hosts Kolkata Knight Riders by 9 runs. MI, put in to bat, posted 173-5 riding on half-centuries from Saurabh Tiwary and Ambati Rayudu, after which their bowlers restricted the home team to 164-8.
In the evening, MI rang in the changes having already qualified for the playoffs; two players got their maiden outing of the season, while four others who had already got a game or two earlier in the season returned to the XI. But the drastic changes to the composition of the team didn’t seem to affect the outcome of the match. MI will be glad that the changes made actually won the game for them. Saurabh Tiwary, getting a game for MI yet again (he played for them between 2008 & 2010), ensured the loss of Lendl Simmons didn’t affect the team; the left-hander raced away to 25 from 19 balls by the time the powerplay had been completed.
Skipper Rohit Sharma impressed with a few good strokes before he failed to pick a slower delivery from Ankit Rajpoot and was trapped leg before wicket in the ninth over. Tiwary and Ambati Rayudu took ten deliveries to reestablish momentum, but past the halfway mark, they started collecting the boundaries and steadily upped the ante.
If Tiwary was all muscle, Rayudu timed the ball brilliantly and found the boundary without having to try too hard. The big momentum shift happened in the fifteenth over bowled by Sunil Narine; Rayudu collected a boundary through midwicket, while Tiwary collected two boundaries – the last of them bringing up his half-century too.
In the sixteenth, Rayudu hit Umesh Yadav to the thirdman boundary and then pummeled one into the stands at midwicket. Later in the same over, the 61-run partnership between Rayudu and Tiwary was broken when the latter didn’t react to the call for a sharp single and the bowler sprinted in front of the non-striker, collected the ball and broke the stumps at the striker’s end.
Rayudu continued to accumulate runs; in the seventeenth, he cut Narine through thirdman, and in the eighteenth he collected a four and a six off Trent Boult – the six bringing up his half-century off 32 balls. The 31-year old kept his foot on the accelerator; he hit Kuldeep Yadav for a four and a six in the nineteenth, before he charged out without picking the googly, only to be stumped by Robin Uthappa. Rayudu had marked his return with an impressive 37-ball 63, which contained six fours and three sixes. MI had scored 51, 67 and 55 in the three phases of the innings to finish at 173-5.
Trent Boult was the most successful of the KKR bowlers; the left-arm pacer returned figures of 2/30, while Kuldeep and Ankit chipped in with a wicket each.
In KKR’s chase, several batsmen got starts and scored runs at a good pace too, but no one carried on to make a big score, and that’s possibly what cost them the match. Every time a partnership flourished and every occasion when KKR had the required run rate in control, MI would strike and push the hosts on the backfoot.
The experiment to open the batting with Sunil Narine didn’t yield anything as the Trinidadian was set up by the short-ball strategy and dismissed for nought in the first over. Gambhir, having made 21 from 15 balls, top-edged Mitchell Johnson to be caught at short fine-leg, while Robin Uthappa sliced the leg-spinner Karn Sharma to the man at cover. Chris Lynn made a brisk 26 (14 balls, 3 fours, 2 sixes) before he pulled a short delivery straight to the man patrolling the midwicket boundary in the seventh over. Yusuf Pathan’s breezy 20 (7 balls, 3 sixes) ended when he holed out to long-on in the ninth over. KKR 87-5.
A 41-run stand between Colin de Grandhomme and Manish Pandey revived KKR’s chase and kept them in the hunt. That stand was broken in the fifteenth when Hardik Pandya got one to take the inside edge of de Grandhomme’s bat and crash into the stumps. KKR must have still nourished hopes until Pandey was in the middle, but with his dismissal at the start of the eighteenth over, the match had slipped from their clutches. KKR batted out their twenty overs, but could only make 164-8 – 10 short of what they needed. KKR will be disappointed that they let the match slip despite only needing 25 off the final three overs.
For MI, Hardik Pandya (2/22), Vinay Kumar and Tim Southee picked up two wickets each, while Johnson and Karn Sharma chipped in with a wicket each.
With this win, MI will now feature in Qualifier 1, which will be played at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai on May 16. Despite the defeat, KKR too are sure of a playoff berth – though they now play in the Eliminator in Bengaluru on May 17.
Mumbai Indians: 173-5 (Ambati Rayudu 63, Saurabh Tiwary 52, Trent Boult 2-30) beat Kolkata Knight Riders: 164-8 (Manish Pandey 33, Hardik Pandya 2-22, R Vinay Kumar 2-31, Tim Southee 2-39) by 9 runs
Man of the Match: Ambati Rayudu