Defending Champions Make It Through to Final Four
Wankhede Stadium erupted in intermittent chants of “Corey, Corey,” “Rayudu, Rayudu,” “Tare, Tare,” and of course, “Mumbai, Mumbai” as emotions as diverse as joy, relief and disbelief swept through a sea of blue. In a match that was meant to separate the two sides – Mumbai Indians and Rajasthan Royals – for the lone available Playoffs spot, emotions took centre stage as the defending IPL champions made it to the final four – albeit miraculously. Needing to scale the 190-run target set by RR in just 14.3 overs, MI managed to tie the score in the stipulated time. With the two sides’ net run-rates deadlocked, MI needed a boundary off the final ball, but what they got instead was a six to top off an improbable passage to the post-season.
Earlier, MI won the toss and asked the visitors to take first strike at Wankhede Stadium. However, much to the capacity crowd’s chagrin, Sanju Samson made sure he gave his team a good start. Although Shane Watson (8) was dismissed in the sixth over, the young RR opener stepped on the pedal with Karun Nair for company; in fact, the latter was the dominant partner during their second-wicket stand. RR were on 59 for one at the halfway stage. But then, the duo went on an all-out attack, and scored 19, 12, 16, 15 and 13 runs off over nos. 11, 12, 13, 14 and 15 respectively. In the process, both batsmen reached their half-centuries as well.
However, Jasprit Bumrah ended their 57-ball 100-run stand by claiming the wicket of Nair (50), leaving RR on 134 for two after 15 overs. And soon thereafter, Shreyas Gopal got rid of Samson (73). Brad Hodge and James Faulkner then joined forces. After a couple of quiet overs, they took the attack to the MI bowlers. Thanks to their late onslaught, which produced a total of 46 runs in the final three overs, RR were propelled to a huge total. And despite Faulkner’s (23) dismissal – off the bowling of Kieron Pollard – in the final over, RR ended up posting 189 for four as Hodge (29*) struck a four off the final delivery of the innings.
In order to make the Playoffs, MI needed to get over the line in 14.3 overs. Lendl Simmons and Michael Hussey gave them a flying – but brief – start. After adding 19 runs, Simmons (12) was dismissed by Dhawal Kulkarni in the second over. But Corey Anderson, who came in at No.3, also joined in the big hitting. He added 34 runs with Hussey (22), before the latter was cleaned up by Kevon Cooper in the fifth over. The RR pacer then got rid of Pollard (7) a few deliveries later. Despite the three early wickets, MI managed 70 runs in the powerplay.
Anderson then continued to go after the RR bowlers and added 47 runs off 26 balls with Rohit Sharma (12). But Kulkarni dismissed the MI skipper in the 10th over to leave the home side on 108 for four. Anderson, meanwhile, reached his half-century with a big hit later in the over as MI reached 120 at the halfway stage.
What transpired over the next 4.4 overs was nothing short of surreal. The MI faithful were witness to arguably the most famous win in franchise history as Anderson (95*) and Ambati Rayudu (30) went after the RR attack with all their might, and then some! Scoring boundaries and maximums at a remarkable rate, the duo brought the Playoffs qualification equation down to 20 runs off nine balls after scoring 19, 18 and 13 runs off the 11th, 12th and 13th overs respectively. With the crowd on the edge of their seats, Anderson struck two fours off Pravin Tambe, to bring the equation down to 10 runs off three balls after the leggie’s over.
Shane Watson then handed the ball to Faulkner, who conceded a single off the first ball he bowled that over. Rayudu then stepped up to the plate and dispatched a full-toss over the fence. With MI needing two runs off one delivery to make the Playoffs, Rayudu struck the ball to mid-off, and he scampered for a single. However, an over-throw from Brad Hodge saw both batters going for the winning run. But Rayudu was run-out in the attempted second run, as the RR dugout leapt in jubilation.
But there was a twist in the tale. As a result of the tied scores at the end of 14.3 overs, both MI and RR sported identical net run-rates. Hence, as per fresh calculations, it was clear that MI were still in with a chance to qualify, provided they scored at least a four off the next delivery. Then thanks to Aditya Tare (6*), they did not get just a four, but in fact, a big six on the leg side to seal an emphatic win and their passage to the Playoffs.
MI will now face CSK in the Eliminator at Brabourne Stadium on May 28.