By Suhas Nayse – SJFI Member
As a great leader, you have to set an example and lead from the front when things go against your team. After losing six consecutive matches in the UAE, including five in 2014, Mumbai Indians desperately wanted to arrest the slide and break the jinx in the gulf nation.
The defending champions needed some inspiration and Rohit Sharma provided exactly that with a spectacular knock of 80 to guide MI to a comfortable 49-run victory against Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) in the Dream11 IPL game at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday.
Chasing a herculean target of 196, KKR were off to a poor start. They lost both the openers — Shubman Gill (7) and Sunil Narine (9) — quite early and could never recover from the twin blows.
Skipper Dinesh Karthik (30) and Nitish Rana (24) tried to steady the rocking ship but in vain. Both had starts but ever-increasing asking rate forced them to go for the big shots and perished. The two-time champions were 71 for 2 in ten overs and it looked all but over from them.
On the first ball of the eleventh over, Rahul Chahar trapped Karthik in front of the wickets, which consolidated MI’s grip in the match. The leggie completed a dream over by conceding just a solitary run. From that moment it was always going to be difficult for KKR to bounce back. They collapsed under pressure and finally were restricted to 146 for 9, handing a big 49-run win to Mumbai Indians.
Jasprit Bumrah claimed two important wickets including dangerous Andre Russell. However, after conceding hardly any runs in the first three overs, Bumrah finished with 32 for 2 as Pat Cummins hammered him four sixes. James Pattinson, Rahul Chahar and Trent Boult also bowled well to finish with a couple of wickets apiece. Kieron Pollard, who was playing his 150th match for MI in the IPL, took a wicket.
Earlier, put in, MI amassed a strong total of 195 for 5 as they maintained a healthy strike rate throughout the course of their innings.
The holders were off to a losing start this season after CSK beat them by five wickets in the inaugural clash on Saturday. To dismiss the tag of slow starters, MI were searching for a flying start and they got in the form of Sharma and Suryakumar Yadav.
Sharma played a captain’s knock and blasted 80 to take his team near the 200-run mark. Opening the innings, Sharma was there at the centre till 18th over. He cracked three fours and six sweetly-timed sixes in his 54-ball stay at the pitch.
He was involved in a big partnership of 90 runs with Yadav, which provided the solid platform. The No. 3 batsman was more aggressive of the two and unfortunate to miss his fifty by just three runs. The 30-year-old Mumbai Ranji team skipper slammed 47 off just 28 balls to give ideal momentum to his side. He was unlucky to get run out while taking a second run for his captain.
It was a day of records for Sharma as he became the highest run-scorer against KKR. The 33-year-old surpassed David Warner (829 runs) to become the top scorer against the Knights. The flamboyant opener had started the tourney five runs (824) away from the record. He opened his account with a six off Sandeep Warrier. He has one hundred and five half-centuries versus KKR over the last 12 years.
Sharma achieved one more landmark during the innings when he hit 200 sixes in the IPL. Only Mahendra Singh Dhoni is ahead of him as far as sixes is concerned in the IPL.
In the last five overs, MI could muster 48 runs despite plenty of wickets in hand. Sourabh Tiwari (21), Hardik Pandya (18) and Kieron Pollard (13 not out) tried hard but could not take their side beyond the 200-run mark.
Brief scores: Mumbai Indians 195 for 5 in 20 overs (Rohit Sharma 80, Suryakumar Yadav 47, Sourabh Tiwari 21, Hardik Pandya 18, Kieron Pollard 13 not out; Shivam Mavi 2-32, Andre Russel 1-17, Sunil Narine 1-22) beat Kolkata Knight Riders 146 for 9 in 20 overs (Pat Cummins 33, Dinesh Karthik 30, Nitish Rana 24, Eoin Morgan 16, Andre Russel 11; James Pattinson 2-25, Rahul Chahar 2-26, Trent Boult 2-30, Jasprit Bumrah 2-32, Kieron Pollard 1-21) by 49 runs.
Man-of-the-match: Rohit Sharma (MI).