Defending champions taken down

Mumbai Indians delivered a facile win to commemorate special milestones for Rohit Sharma and Lasith Malinga against the Sunrisers Hyderabad. Rohit Sharma and Lasith Malinga celebrated their 100th IPL match for Mumbai Indians together as the team crafted an easy win against the hitherto undefeated defending champions at the Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai.

Sunrisers Hyderabad were put into bat and started cautiously at first. After managing just 5 runs in the first 2 overs, David Warner broke free in the 3rd over with back-to-back boundaries off Harbhajan Singh, opting to take advantage of fielding restrictions in the Powerplay. Dhawan at the other end, was struggling to time the ball, having limped to 7 off 15 balls at the end of the 6th over, with Sunrisers Hyderabad faring not much better at 34/0. The fact that Sunrisers could post that at this stage was largely due to Warner’s efforts, with the southpaw caressing all of Sunrisers’ 5 boundaries in the Powerplay.

Dhawan finally managed to cut loose with a hack across a McClenaghan delivery before sweetly timing a length offering for six over midwicket in the same over. The Kiwi’s first over didn’t go to plan with 15 runs conceded. In the very next over, Krunal Pandya pulled off a stunning effort at mid-off off his brother’s bowling, but that effort was adjudged to be not out, with the umpire giving a soft signal of not out and television replays remaining inconclusive. This seemed to liberate Dhawan as he began to play with far more fluency over the course of his innings.

Mitchell McClenaghan’s second over featured a brace of boundaries, this time off Warner’s bat as he looked to be in imperious touch. Mumbai’s luck seemed to run out when Dhawan bottom-edged a fullish Hardik delivery past Parthiv for another streaky boundary, before Warner played possibly the shot of the innings with a beautifully guided upper cut for 6 in the same over. Suddenly, Sunrisers Hyderabad found themselves 75/0 after 10 overs - the last 5 overs having cost Mumbai Indians 49 runs.

It required courage to choose to bowl spin with both batsmen set and Rohit turned to his old warhorse, Harbhajan Singh. His first ball off the 11th over travelled for 6 as Warner disdainfully muscled a 6 courtesy a switch hit. The very next ball, however Warner tried to repeat the dose, but the wily old fox got his man, with Warner only managing to top edge a slower ball, Parthiv completed the rest with a fantastic full-length dive.

Deepak ‘Hurricane’ Hooda walked in at number 3 and immediately looked to rotate the strike. A short and wide McClenaghan offering was flayed to the point boundary, demonstrating his intent. However, that man again, Harbhajan Singh got rid of Hooda with a top-spinner that all Hooda could do was sky to Pollard, who took a smart catch under lights. Still, Sunrisers were well set at 105/2 and going at nearly 8 runs an over. With Yuvraj Singh walking into bat, Mumbai would need to bowl well to restrict Sunrisers to a manageable score on a wicket that was slowing up.

And that’s pretty much what happened. Mitchell McClenaghan managed to prise out Dhawan with a fantastic in-swinging yorker for a streaky 48, before Hardik got rid of the dangerous Yuvraj Singh, courtesy a chopped-on pull. Suddenly Sunrisers found themselves with two new batsmen at the crease with 4 overs to go.

Rohit managed his troops fantastically well and ensured his two best death bowlers would share that responsibility. First up, Malinga bowled the 17th over. Despite a brace of boundaries off the first couple of balls in the over, Malinga returned superbly to concede just 6 runs off the remaining over. Bumrah’s 3rd over (18th of the innings) was typical, full off variations, and pinpoint yorkers. A special yorker got rid of Ben Cutting for a fluent 20 off 10 balls.

Malinga crafted the perfect start to the 19th over, managing to completely befuddle Vijay Shankar into spooning a leading-edge to Nitish Rana. The remainder of the over was vintage Malinga, who, like Bumrah, mixed up his pace beautifully. Bumrah finished the innings for Mumbai on a high, conceding just 5 runs and taking the wickets of Naman Ojha & Rashid Khan. Sunrisers ended up with 158/8, a total that looked distinctly under-par at a venue where dew plays a big role in the 2nd innings.

Where Sunrisers started circumspectly, Mumbai started positively. Buttler timed a Bhuvneshwar Kumar delivery for a boundary in the first over and followed that up with an outside edge off Ashish Nehra’s first ball off the match. Parthiv Patel made merry with a couple of boundaries in the same way and Mumbai were away at 21/0 after 2 overs.

Nehra had the last laugh, however, and managed to dislodge the pugnacious right-hander whose swipe only ended up disturbing his stumps. Parthiv Patel continued on his merry way and was 21 off 11 at the end of the 4th over, Mumbai found themselves at a healthy 39/1.

Arguably the talk of the Sunrisers team came on to bowl next, Rashid Khan. The Afghan leg-spinner had an immediate impact, ensuring the Mumbai Indians’ skipper’s quiet start to IPL 2017 continued, to the groans of the partisan Wankhede crowd. Nevertheless, Parthiv and Rana stitched together quick runs. In the process, Parthiv Patel managed to cross the significant milestone of 2000 IPL runs, with a beautiful late-cut off Mustafizur. The Bangladesh seamer’s first over was uncharacteristically expensive, going either to, or over the fence 4 times. Mumbai found themselves far ahead of Sunrisers at the end of the Powerplay, with the score 61/2.

Deepak Hooda was brought on to slow down the pace and extract purchase from the wicket. He struggled initially with dew, with Rana carting the part-timer through deep backward square leg for a boundary. Hooda came back well, bravely tossing the ball up and deceiving the rampant Parthiv into skying it to Bhuvneshwar Kumar. Parthiv departed for a typically entertaining 39 off 24 balls. Nitish Rana picked up where Parthiv left off and shortly after slog-swept Hooda for a massive six.

The Beast walked in with a point to prove, but didn’t get sucked into going after Rashid Khan, initially. Both Pollard and Rana decided to play percentage cricket for a few overs, watchfully negating Ashish Nehra and Rashid Khan. The pair put on 32 runs in 4 overs, before Pollard unluckily picked out Shikhar Dhawan at square-leg; Nelson striking again as Mumbai were 111/4.

However, at this stage, dew was making the Sunrisers’ already difficult job of reigning the Mumbai Indians’ batsmen in even more difficult. Rashid Khan let slip a full-toss that the new batsman, Krunal Pandya, easily dispatched over deep midwicket for a six. Krunal repeated the dose in the 16th over when Ashish Nehra came onto bowl with a pair of contrasting boundaries. The first was a languid strike over long-on for six, followed up immediately with a smart tuck off his hips for a four. The equation now read 25 off 24 balls.

Krunal hastened the inevitable as he took toll on a wild Cutting over, imperiously taking 15 runs off it. Krunal dominated the stand as he accounted for 37 off the 38 runs put on, before holing out to Cutting off Bhuvneshwar Kumar. Bhuvneshwar Kumar followed that up with Nitish Rana’s wicket at the end of the 18th over with a beautiful slower ball. The youngster would no doubt have like to shepherd the team home, but would have to be content with the bigger prize, a team victory.

It was only fitting that the player who struck first for Mumbai struck the winning run, with Harbhajan Singh’s quiet nudge giving Mumbai a 4-wicket victory with 8 balls to spare. Mumbai will now focus on the challenge of facing a dangerous Royal Challengers Bangalore outfit at their home den on Friday, before heading back home to face the Gujarat Lions on Sunday.

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