Gowtham stars as RR beat MI

K Gowtham played a cameo for the ages as Rajasthan Royals defeated Mumbai Indians by three wickets at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium in Jaipur on Sunday. The loss was our fourth in five matches this season. We are seventh on the points table. Gowtham hit an unbeaten 33 off 11, inclusive of four fours and two sixes, as RR got their campaign back on track after two consecutive losses.

Chasing 168, RR had Sanju Samson and Ben Stokes to thank for keeping them in the contest with a 72-run stand for the third wicket. Samson reclaimed the Orange Cap with a 39-ball 52 and Stokes made 40 off just 27. But MI fought back with a flurry of wickets.

Gowtham, a former MI player, walked into the middle with RR needing 43 off 17 balls. The host team had lost three wickets in the space of six deliveries with Jasprit Bumrah claiming two in two balls but Gowtham had other ideas. He carted Mustafizur Rahman for a six and a four to bring the equation down to 28 off the last two overs. Bumrah conceded three fours in the 19th over, with Gowtham smashing two of those and Jofra Archer hitting one. Archer, who also picked up 3/22 in his first Vivo IPL game, hit eight off nine balls to pick up the Man of the Match award.

Hardik Pandya had to defend 10 off the last over. He removed Archer off the first ball. The batsmen had crossed and Gowtham was on strike. The lanky right-hander, who bowled three overs of off-spin for 20 runs, played an unthinkable ramp shot over short third-man to collect four more. Pandya raised our hopes with a dot ball but Gowtham pulled the next ball, a short one bowled outside off, way beyond the mid-wicket fence to seal the deal.

Earlier, Suryakumar Yadav smashed an enterprising 72 off just 47 balls and added 129 runs in the company of Ishan Kishan, who registered his first half-century in this edition of the Vivo IPL, as Mumbai Indians finished with 167/7. Yadav and Kishan came together after Evin Lewis was dismissed for a first-ball duck to Dhawal Kulkarni.

Their partnership tilted the scales in MI’s favour but some brilliant bowling from Archer, making his debut in the league, pegged MI back. The visitors, well on course for a 200-plus total, suffered a mini-collapse and added just 32 runs for the loss of five wickets in the last five overs.

Kishan and Yadav were gone within the space of six deliveries. Kieron Pollard, who was promoted to No. 4, finished with an unbeaten 21 off 20, but four others fell for single-digit scores. Rohit Sharma was run out for a first-ball duck when he went for a non-existent single. The ball went straight to Ajinkya Rahane, who coolly pulled off an under-arm throw to send his opposite number back to the dugout.

Archer then took centre stage by picking up three wickets in the 19th over. First, he unleashed the knuckle ball which Krunal Pandya lofted one to wide long-on where Heinrich Klaasen took an easy catch. Three deliveries later, he claimed Hardik Pandya with a quicker delivery bowled on leg stump. The batsman looked to smash it but the ball hit the pads and crashed on to the stumps. New man Mitchell McClenaghan was Archer’s next victim. Bowling from around the wicket, the Barbados-born all-rounder came up with a wonderful yorker to send the New Zealander back.

Yadav and Kishan were batting on a different plane after Sharma won the toss for the first time in five matches this season. Slow to begin with — we were 11/1 after three overs — the duo smashed 32 off the next three as MI finished with 43 in the Powerplay.

Yadav got going with a big six off his long-time Mumbai teammate Kulkarni. He and Kishan then punished Kulkarni some more in the fifth over by collecting 18 runs. If Kishan danced down the track and hoisted one over long-on, then Yadav did better by using his powerful wrists to unleash a nonchalant flick for another six. That shot had class written all over it. The duo also made merry when the two spinners — K Gowtham (who shared the new ball) and S Gopal — were in operation. In all, they hit 50 runs off the five overs bowled by the tweakers.

Kishan was particularly severe on Ben Stokes, who went for 31 off his three wicketless overs. The highlight of his duel with the Englishman was a swivelling pull for six over deep backward square-leg. That shot would have done Brian Lara proud because Kishan got his front leg up just like the great West Indian used to.

The scoreboard read an impressive 93/1 after 10 overs after Yadav and Kishan picked up 18 off Gopal. Yadav got to his second fifty this season with a stylish six over cover. Kishan had his fun when he hit the last ball of the over beyond cow corner.

Their partnership was the highest of the season and it ended with Kishan playing an ambitious ramp shot from a very awkward position. Jos Buttler pouched it as Kishan went for 42-ball 58 (4×4, 3×6). Yadav fell in the next over when he skied a Jaydev Unadkat delivery for Buttler to do the rest. He made 72 off 47 balls (6×4, 3×6). Alas, MI couldn’t quite make the next 28 deliveries count as well as they would have wanted to. Pollard brought up his 150th six in the Vivo IPL with a mighty hit off Unadkat.

Next up for us is the return fixture against Sunrisers Hyderabad at the Wankhede Stadium on Tuesday, April 24th.

Brief Scores: Mumbai Indians 167/7 in 20 overs (Suryakumar Yadav 72, Ishan Kishan 58, Kieron Pollard 21*; Dhawal Kulkarni 2/32, Jofra Archer 3/22, Jaydev Unadkat 1/31) lost to Rajasthan Royals 168/7 in 19.4 overs (Sanju Samson 52, Ben Stokes 40, K Gowtham 33*; Mitchell McClenaghan 1/32, Jasprit Bumrah 2/28, Krunal Pandya 1/33, Mustafizur Rahman 1/35, Hardik Pandya 2/25) by three wickets.