The Pune Warriors’ chase nipped in the bud after Johnson’s initial burst
Taken for a picnic to the Wankhede Stadium, near about 10,000 flag-waving underprivileged school children occupying the popular Vijay Merchant, Sunil Gavaskar and Sachin Tendulkar stands must have wondered why they were in the middle of the hustle and bustle of cricketing activity.
It was a first-time experience for a large group of boys and girls as they saw two legends of the game Ricky Ponting and Sachin Tendulkar open the innings for a side they were cheering for and which, after an hour and 35 minutes of solid batting posted a formidable total of 183.
Splendid team effort
In the end a splendid team effort enabled MI score an emphatic 41-run win over Pune Warriors India in a Pepsi IPL-VI match watched by a near full house here on Saturday.
Once left-arm seamer Mitchell Johnson penetrated the defences of Aaron Finch and Robin Uthappa, a third straight victory for the home team looked very likely.
MI piled on pressure and though Yuvraj Singh and Mitchell Marsh hit soaring sixes, excellent catches by Rishi Dhawan and Kieron Pollard in the deep clinched the match for their side.
MI benefited largely from the half-century partnerships between Ponting and Tendulkar and the in-form Dinesh Karthik and Rohit Sharma. Eventually Sharma and Pollard’s roaring 65-run (24 balls) stand for the unbeaten fourth wicket completely demoralised Warriors’ morale.
The teams that had scored clear-cut wins in their previous matches against Delhi Daredevils and Rajasthan Royals took the field unchanged.
Focus on opening pair
The focus — after Ponting won the fourth toss in as many matches — remained on the home team’s opening pair which was under some pressure to provide the thrust after poor efforts of 3 and 0 in the matches against CSK and Daredevils.
Initially, the ageing batsmen struggled on sort of a sticky surface, but once Tendulkar cut loose against Ashoke Dinda and struck four 4s in a row, runs flowed as his team touched 48 at the end of the Power Play overs.
Ponting fell to a smart catch converted by Abhishek Nayar at point. MI suffered another blow when Marsh took a typical Australian-type catch cupping the ball in front of his chest at long-on when Tendulkar attempted to clear the line.
Warriors appeared to have exercised considerable control over MI’s scoring rate, but after Karthik’s fall in the 16th over at 115, the home team blazed away with Sharma taking a heavy toll of Dinda.