Having won their first two matches, Rajasthan Royals had to maintain their habit. And having lost their initial two games, Mumbai Indians had to somehow find a way to get going. At Royals’ adopted home venue, MI seemed to have found the man to pull them out of the mess, only for the brute force to be subdued by a man who has hardly played a shot wrong through the season.
Mumbai, having won the toss, were reeling before Kieron Pollard smashed a 70 to give them a good total to try and defend. But Smith was again so composed finishing on 79 not out off 53 deliveries as Rajasthan wrapped up their third win with five balls to spare.
Mumbai Indians were in precarious situation with three down for just 45 at the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Stadium, Motera, when West Indian Pollard (70 off 34, 7x4, 5x6) walked in to face the last ball of tenth over.
With Australian import Aaron Finch limping off the field in the fourth over and skipper Rohit Sharma out for yet another duck, much was riding on Pollard to bail Mumbai out of trouble.
The big hitting Caribbean played to the situation as he took his time before exploding to give Mumbai a competitive total.
He broke free with a flick off Chris Morris that flew over mid-wicket for six and looked unstoppable since then. With Corey Anderson looking fluent at the other end, Pollard threw caution to the wind once he was set and what transpired next on the field left spectators chanting Pollard every time he came on strike.
Mumbai were 83 for three after 15 overs when Anderson at the other end decided to take on his compatriot Tim Southee. He hit a six and four off consecutive deliveries to break the shackles. The over fetched 16 runs for Mumbai and gave much needed fillip to their innings.
Pollard bettered his teammate the very next over as he plundered 14 runs off James Faulkner’s over, hitting the Aussie for a six and two fours. Pollard finally departed off the last ball of the 19th over when he holed out at deep mid-wicket but not before guiding his side to a safe position. Mumbai eventually looted 81 runs from the last five overs.
Earlier, looking for their first win in the tournament, Mumbai made three changes in their playing XI, replacing out-of-form wicketkeeper batsman Aditya Tare with Parthiv Patel, and Ambati Rayudu with Unmukt Chand.
Previous match’s half-centurion Harbhajan also sat out with a sore neck, making the team management rope in Karnataka spinner Shreyas Gopal.
But their start was far from ideal as opener Finch limped off the field and Parthiv Patel was done in by a slower delivery from Dhawal Kulkarni.
Despite batting down the order, skipper Rohit Sharma failed once again and was out for a duck, second in a row.
They might be in deep trouble as Kulkarni had Anderson, but replay showed the bowler had overstepped giving a reprieve to the Kiwi, who made the most of it by scoring a fluent half-century and adding 104-run for the fourth wicket with Pollard.
Rajasthan lost opener Ajinkya Rahane (47 off 39 balls) after a solid partnership with Smith, but the Aussie was unstoppable, as he has been in all forms of the game recently.
Smith also grabbed the Orange Cap for being the highest run-getter so far. He has scored 122 runs in three matches.
"I never get tired of batting," the PTI reported Smith as saying in response to a question on his impressive run of form.
Talking about his style of batting, Smith, who was also declared Man of the Match, said, "I am doing it consistently now, moving across my stumps, it is working, no need to change it."