Mumbai Indians came up with a performance as clinical as it could get and must be hoping it didn’t come just a little too late in the day.
In a must-win game, MI crushed Rajasthan Royals by eight wickets, with 11.4 overs to spare, at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium on Tuesday.
With the win, fashioned by their seamers who reduced RR to 90 for nine, Rohit Sharma’s men have maintained their right to dream of a place in the playoffs, and by extension, a hat-trick of IPL titles; their fate might still not be in their own hands, however.
For now, though, they can reflect on one of their best nights this season. They won the toss and chose to bowl, and brought into the squad Ishan Kishan and James Neesham.
Both justified the faith the team management showed in them. Neesham’s selection, in particular, proved an inspired one.
The Kiwi seamer took three for 12, including the prize wicket of RR skipper Sanju Samson. But it was his trans-Tasman neighbour Nathan Coulter-Nile who turned out to be the destroyer-in-chief.
The Australian pacer took four for 14, his best figures at the IPL. There were two wickets for Jasprit Bumrah too.
On a slow, low wicket, MI’s steady attack gave little away. The RR batters made things easier for the MI bowlers, too.
At 26 for no loss after three overs, with openers Evin Lewis and Yashasvi Jaiswal looking in good touch, RR seemed on its way to a good total.
It was to the dugout, though, that the RR batters seemed in a hurry to make their way back to. Jaiswal was the first to go, as he tried to cut Coulter-Nile and edged behind the stumps to Ishan.
Lewis, who would be the top-scorer with 24, fell lbw to a ball from Bumrah that didn’t bounce as high as he wanted it to. It was only the beginning of the horror story for RR.
Later, Ishan led MI’s comfortable chase with an unbeaten 50 (25b, 5×4, 3×6).