Ishan Kishan finds form with rapid 50 as MI crush RR to stay alive in IPL 2021
- The defending champions knocked off the modest target, reaching 94/2 in 8.2 overs to be fifth, and tied on 12 points with fourth-placed KKR, chasing the final playoff berth
Rohit Sharma smiled sheepishly when asked at the toss about his decision to bowl first. “We have tried everything in this UAE leg,” he said, seeing the funny side of Mumbai Indians’ (MI) 1-4 win-loss record in the UAE leg of this IPL season going into the must-win match against Rajasthan Royals (RR).
Whatever the MI skipper tried on Tuesday though worked just fine. Be it in the inspired selection of James Neesham in place of Krunal Pandya or getting Ishan Kishan to open the batting by dropping Quinton de Kock. The result was a lopsided eight-wicket win on a challenging batting pitch in Sharjah where RR could only muster 90/9 which, despite the defending champions’ misfiring batting unit, was nowhere near enough.
The result not only keeps alive MI but the battle for the final playoffs spot. Kolkata Knight Riders and MI are on 12 points while Punjab Kings have RR for company at 10 with one match each to go.
Coming off a match-changing, 77-run blazing stand against Chennai Super Kings, RR openers Yashasvi Jaiswal and Evin Lewis came out firing again. Jayant Yadav was given the ball early to nullify the threat of the two left-handers but both dealt with the off-spin challenge cleverly. Lewis slammed Yadav for a straight six before Jaiswal lifted one over mid-on and used his feet to place through covers for back-to-back fours as 15 came off the second over.
What drift and turn couldn’t do on a sluggish surface for MI, pace and bounce did. Rather, the lack of it. Nathan Coulter-Nile found the bottom edge of Jaiswal, who played a loose shot outside off to a length ball that skidded on in the fourth over. Two overs later, and two balls after he pulled a Jasprit Bumrah short ball from around the wicket for a boundary, Lewis missed a similar length delivery. The ball rammed into his thigh guard but the bounce wasn’t high enough to reverse the LBW.
Rohit Sharma persisted with medium pacers bowling the odd cutters to break the Royals’ charge. At the forefront of the tactic was Neesham. The Kiwi got Sanju Samson first ball after the powerplay, the RR captain throwing his bat while making room to a delivery that just stopped on the surface to be caught at point. In his next over, Shivam Dube dragged a full, wide ball on to the stumps going for a drive.
Sensing blood and the frailties of an untested middle-order, Sharma went for the kill, bringing his strike bowler back. And Coulter-Nile delivered immediately, Glenn Phillips playing across the line to a cross-seam length ball that stayed a touch low and castled him leg-stump.
From over No. 6 to 10, RR lost three wickets for nine runs to be 50/5 halfway into the innings. David Miller and Rahul Tewatia knocked it around for a 21-run partnership before Neesham removed the latter for his third wicket. Miller was RR’s last hope to somehow crawl to the 120-run mark but when Coulter-Nile trapped him in front in the 17th over, even three figures looked a distant dream at 76/8. What summed up RR's batting misery was a streaky outside edge by Chetan Sakariya two balls into the 19th over. It was the team’s first boundary since the start of the sixth over.
While RR notched up all of nine boundaries in their innings, MI had the same volume within the powerplay. Knowing quick runs with the new ball was all that was required to overhaul the meagre target, Sharma got going with a four and a straight six in the first over. Once he fell to Sakariya, Kishan took over, hitting three fours in the space of four balls as MI raced to 56/2 in six overs.
Kishan, whose dip in form and confidence has raised concerns for India going into the T20 World Cup, finished the job with more than half the overs left by smashing a six that brought up his fifty off 25 balls.