|Rayudu and McClenaghan helped Mumbai win against Rajasthan|
Mumbai Indians (MI) registered their 3rd win of this season’s Pepsi IPL, with a relatively comfortable 8-run victory over Rajasthan Royals (RR) at the Wankhede Stadium last night.
The Indians hadn’t played well in the tournament until last night, and it was always going to be a stringent examination of their mental toughness and ability to execute their plans against the second-placed Rajasthan.
The visitors came into this game having not had a win in their four previous fixtures, two of which were washed out, and wanted to win this game to gain some momentum.
Shane Watson, the Royals’ skipper, won the toss and asked Mumbai to bat first on what was a decent batting surface that had a bit of bounce to keep the bowlers interested.
The hosts made a good start through their openers, lost their way a bit during the middle overs, but got themselves to a competitive total of 187/5 as a result of Ambati Rayudu’s scintillating innings.
RR needed 188 to win for the first time in five games, and they looked on course for a major part of their run-chase.
However, the hosts kept themselves in the game by picking wickets and the visitors’ batsmen, except Sanju Samson, failed to make substantial contributions.
Samson single-handedly tried to take his side home, but once he got out in the 18th over for an astonishing innings of 76(46), the visitors’ chances of winning became slim. Mumbai won by 8 runs after a nervy last over by Vinay Kumar, and got themselves to six points after eight games.
In retrospect, what did we learn from that MI performance? Read on…
Have Mumbai unearthed a reliable opening combination?
Mumbai, from the very first season of the Indian Premier League, have struggled to find an opening combination that gives them solidity at the top of the order and a platform for the middle and lower-middle order to throw the kitchen sink during the latter stages of the innings.
This season has been no different in that regard, with Aaron Finch, the new recruit from Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH), injuring his hamstring and having to go home after playing just three games.
However, having seen Lendl Simmons contribute so much to his side making it to the playoffs last season, Finch’s absence wasn’t going to concern MI much, if the Caribbean opener played like he did last season.
But the problem was going to be in finding a partner for Simmons. Parthiv Patel has been given that responsibility of opening the innings with Simmons, and the wicket-keeper batsman has done a decent job so far.
In the last four games, this opening combo of Simmons and Parthiv has averaged over 42 runs per innings, though only Simmons has kicked on and played bigger innings’ than the diminutive southpaw.
Against Royals last night, it was Parthiv who took the initiative of scoring boundaries in the mandatory powerplay, and helped himself to an attractive 14-ball 23 while his partner wasn’t in the best of rhythm.
The story could well have been different if Samson hung on to the chance Simmons gave him in the very first over. But, from MI’s perspective, it was important that the openers stayed there for a while and scored at least 8 runs per over during the first 6 overs, which is exactly what the Parthiv-Simmons duo did.
In this format of the game, if the opening pair can give you 40 runs in every innings they go out to bat, any team would be happy, and it should be no different in Mumbai’s case.
They will be hoping that Parthiv and Simmons can continue to perform at the top of the order, like they have done in the last four fixtures, subsequently laying a foundation for their side to post totals in the region of 180-200.
Rayudu’s innings of 53(27) was an absolute gem
Mumbai batsmen had delivered only on one occasion prior to yesterday. Their solitary good performance came against the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) at the Chinnaswamy Stadium when they posted a mammoth score of 209 on the board, with the likes of Simmons, Rohit Sharma and Unmukt Chand making substantial contributions to their team’s total.
Mumbai also have had problems with their batting order that has been shuffled and renovated on far too many occasions. The general consensus has been that Rohit, the team’s best batsman, should bat no less than at No.3.
However, Mumbai have persevered with their skipper slotting himself at No.4, behind Chand at No.3.
Against the Royals, MI’s top four remained the same but at No.5, instead of Kieron Pollard, Rayudu walked in with his side needing to rebuild after the fall of Chand, with the scorecard reading 3/84 in the 11th over.
The Hyderabadi batsmen played a lot of singles down to long-on and long-off to kick start his innings. It wasn’t until the 17th over, that Rayudu put his foot on the accelerator and started to look for boundaries.
Rohit too got out at a critical stage of the innings and Mumbai needed someone to hang in there with the incoming Pollard.
That notion, however, went into the trashcan once Rayudu started striking it sweetly and nonchalantly, assuming the role of the leading batsman in the partnership.
He really took the attack to Southee, who delivered the 19th over and conceded 16 runs, 15 of which came from the bat of Rayudu who scored a couple of boundaries, a six and single.
He brought up his 50 in the last over of the MI innings, finishing with 53 from 27 balls, punctuated by four 4s and three massive 6s.
In the end analysis of the game, it probably was his innings that made the difference to Mumbai registering their second consecutive victory for the first time this season.
Mitchell McClenaghan made the difference to Mumbai’s bowling