Sharma tears the Knights apart
Mumbai Indians have hit back, and how!
After a disappointing loss to Bangalore Royal Challengers at home, Mumbai Indians arrived in Kolkata and set the Eden Gardens on fire, beating hosts Knight Riders by a comprehensive 27 runs on Saturday evening.
The hero of the evening was Rohit Sharma and nobody else. In one of the best innings ever played in the Indian Premier League, Mumbai boy Sharma struck an awesome century, one of the fastest this season, to help his team decimate the opposition.
If ever there was a time for an individual to step forward and deliver the goods, it was now. And the talented Sharma, whose technique makes for the classiest of cricket shots, took over the show.
He walked in after Sachin Tendulkar’s early dismissal – stumped off Shakib al Hasan’s left-arm spin and to a dicey decision at that – and made way for Sharma to walk in. Riding on his 60-ball 109, laced with 17 fours and five sixes, Mumbai Indians reached a highly competitive 182-1 in 20 overs, batting first.
Sharma’s century, in the larger benefit of the team, resulted in an unbeaten 167-run stand between him and South African opener Herschelle Gibbs who hit a convincing half century to escalate the team’s fortunes.
The win brought Knight Riders' six-match winning streak to a halt and allowed Mumbai Indians to rise to the third position in the table with 16 points, one less than second-placed Knights.
If a packed Eden did indeed need an enthralling innings then it was that of Sharma which gave them their wish. A highlight of a knock, packed with shots that would make the best of bowlers quiver, Sharma lit up the Eden with immaculate drives and pulls that was worth the money spent. At the other end, the batsman received unstinted support from Gibbs – an unbeaten 66 – that took the game beyond the grasp of the Knight Riders. Their partnership was second only to that of the 189-run stand between David Warner and Naman Ojha – the pair that had decimated Deccan Chargers the other evening.
It was a good batting wicket indeed and chasing 182 under lights wouldn’t have been a problem as big as it eventually turned out to be if not for a disciplined Mumbai Indians attack that followed.
The total proved too much for Kolkata, who managed to score 155 for four, built around Jacques Kallis' classy 79 and Yusuf Pathan's unbeaten 40.
The Knight Riders never really looked comfortable chasing the stiff total with their in-form skipper Gautam Gambhir dismissed in the first over. The left-hander, who got a reprieve in the first delivery he faced, saw his middle stump shattered by a Munaf Patel ball when he tried to make room but missed the line.
The hosts soon lost Manvinder Bisla (1) to be reduced to two for three in the second over. Manoj Tiwary (27) and Kallis looked to repair the damage but when their 57-run stand was broken, it dented their chase further. The South African veteran stood tall in the Knight Riders chase and found a fine ally in Yusuf Pathan but it was not enough against the imposing target. Kallis and Pathan belted the left-arm Ojha for one six each as they collected 15 runs from the 12th over and another 13 runs in the next over off Dwayne Smith.
However, just when the Knight Riders looked to take charge, Lasith Malinga bowled a tight third over, pushing the required run-rate close to 14.
The match was over for Kolkata sooner than they would’ve liked, allowing Mumbai Indians to gain a huge psychological advantage ahead of their next match against Bangalore Royal Challengers and then the Knights again, back home.
Mumbai Indians now have 16 points from 13 matches, one less than the Knights and two less than table-toppers Delhi Daredevils. One victory from here and they’ll be firmly placed in the playoffs for the season.