After a lacklustre start in this year’s IPL, Rohit Sharma has turned out to be Mumbai Indians’ brightest star and match-winner. His legion of fans and many former cricketers are enthralled by his elegant strokeplay and the capacity to power shots to the fence and lift sixes with a flick of his wrists.
On Monday, he once again showed a beautiful pair of hands to make a masterly, unbeaten 79, with half a dozen fours and sixes, and led his team to a thrilling four-run victory over Kings XI Punjab. Southpaw David Miller piled on the pressure for the home team till the 18th over with a daring half-century before Praveen Kumar kept the match alive till the last ball.
For an hour and six minutes, it was sheer magic from the languid right-hander. With odds heavily stacked against his team on a track that showed bias to the Kings seamers, Rohit arrived at the fall of the second wicket (Dinesh Karthik) and steered his team to 174, smashing 27 runs off the last over sent down by off-spinner David Hussey.
On the way, he became the third batsman to cross the magnificent 100 sixes mark in the IPL after Chris Gayle (165) and Suresh Raina (100). Rohit has now hit 105 sixes in the competition.
There was plenty of action in the second half as the visitor set about the chase. The athletic Kieron Pollard held his own when he pulled off another breathtaking catch at long on — just inches from the boundary line — to send back Shaun Marsh. The two Indian youngsters, Mandeep Singh and Manan Vohra, were earlier removed by Lasith Malinga and Mitchell Johnson. Hussey counterattacked during his brief stay before becoming Pragyan Ojha’s second wicket, playing against the spin and holing out to Johnson at long on.
Winning the toss for the second time in a row at the Wankhede Stadium, Rohit chose to bat.
But his team could not make more than 36 at the conclusion of the Power Play.
Dwayne Smith struggled to time his shots and so did Pollard, but the skipper took charge with power-packed shots. Mumbai Indians scored at a rate of more than 10 in seven of the 20 overs.
The batsmen targeted leg-spinner Piyush Chawla, Manpreet Grewal and Azhar Mahmood before Rohit lashed out at Hussey in the last over.
For a team that would have probably looked at around 150, 174 was a real bonus.
A century of sixes
Rohit crossed 100 sixes during the course of his whirlwind knock. Gayle (165) and Raina (100) are the others who have achieved the feat.
Mumbai Indians: Dwayne Smith c Miller b Chawla 33 (32b, 3x4, 1x6), Sachin Tendulkar b Praveen 9 (10b, 2x4), Dinesh Karthik b Grewal 25 (19b, 2x4, 1x6), Rohit Sharma (not out) 79 (39b, 6x4, 6x6), Kieron Pollard (not out) 20 (21b, 1x4, 1x6); Extras (lb-3, nb-1, w-4): 8; Total (for three wkts. in 20 overs): 174.
Fall of wickets: 1-11 (Tendulkar), 2-43 (Karthik), 3-86 (Smith).
Kings XI Punjab bowling: Praveen Kumar 4-0-24-1, Azhar Mahmood 4-0-32-0, Parvinder Awana 4-0-16-0, Manpreet Grewal 4-0-43-1, Piyush Chawla 2-0-24-1, David Hussey 2-0-32-0.
Kings XI Punjab: Mandeep Singh b Malinga 9 (8b, 2x4), Shaun Marsh c Pollard b Ojha 10 (12b, 1x4), Manan Vohra c Pollard b Johnson 1 (2b), David Hussey c Johnson b Ojha 34 (18b, 5x4, 1x6), David Miller c Tendulkar b Johnson 56 (34b, 1x4, 5x6), Gurkeerat Singh c Smith b Harbhajan 2 (4b), Azhar Mahmood c Karthik b Harbhajan 9 (13b, 1x4), Manpreet Grewal c Karthik b Harbhajan 0 (3b), Piyush Chawla c Rayudu b Kulkarni 12 (10b, 1x6), Praveen Kumar c Tendulkar b Kulkarni 24 (15b, 1x4, 2x6), Parvinder Awana (not out) 0 (2b); Extras (b-4, lb-3, nb-1,w-5): 13; Total (in 20 overs): 170.
Fall of wickets: 1-12 (Mandeep), 2-16 (Vohra), 3-55 (Marsh), 4-76 (Hussey), 5-79 (Gurkeerat), 6-110 (Mahmood), 7-111 (Grewal), 8-132 (Chawla), 9-149 (Miller).
Mumbai Indians bowling: Mitchell Johnson 4-0-29-2, Lasith Malinga 4-0-39-1, Dhawal Kulkarni 4-0-44-2, Pragyan Ojha 3-0-22-2, Harbhajan Singh 4-0-14-3, Kieron Pollard 1-0-15-0.
Man-of-the-match: Rohit Sharma.