It was the night of the openers in the Indian Premier League 2018 on Sunday (May 13). After Ambati Rayudu hit his maiden century to steer Chennai Super Kings past Sunrisers Hyderabad earlier in the evening in Pune, Jos Buttler’s unbeaten 94 helped Rajasthan Royals overpower Mumbai Indians by seven wickets at the Wankhede Stadium in the second game of the double-header.
Having spent enough time playing at the Wankhede playing for Mumbai earlier, Buttler (94 off 53) brought all his experience to the fore and continued his brilliant run of form, single-handedly helping Rajasthan chase down a competitive target of 169 in only 18 overs.
Hardik Pandya’s (36 off 21) cameo had hauled Mumbai, the defending champions, to 168 for 6 after they lost their way despite an 87-run opening stand between Evin Lewis and Suryakumar Yadav on being put in by Ajinkya Rahane.
Jasprit Bumrah provided Mumbai early delight when he had D’Arcy Short caught behind poking at one which left him in the first over. Rahane then combined with Buttler to lay a solid platform without taking undue risks.
Buttler survived a close shave when he swept Krunal Pandya, but the ball bounced just in front of Mayank Markande at square-leg. Both batsmen found the boundary at regular intervals to keep the required rate in check and match Mumbai’s run tally at the end of the Power Play.
As was the case with Mumbai, Rajasthan too slowed down as the ball got softer and the boundaries were difficult to come by. But what worked in their favour was the presence of an in-form batsman. Buttler brought up his fifth consecutive score of over fifty in IPL, becoming only the second player to do so after Virender Sehwag (for Delhi Daredevils in 2012).
Rahane (37 off 36) struggled in comparison and eventually holed out to long-off off Hardik to end the 95–run alliance. Buttler pummeled Hardik for a six and four in the same over to ensure Rajasthan were in control. Every time the visitors needed a boundary, Buttler obliged and when he hit Bumrah for a six and a four, the equation came down to 37 from 30 balls.
Sanju Samson hit Markande’s legspin for a couple of fours and Hardik for two sixes over mid-wicket before holing out with just four needed. Buttler finished things off in style, with a six into the Sachin Tendulkar stand to dent Mumbai’s qualification hopes.
Rajasthan earlier threw away opportunities for an ideal start by putting down catches off both openers. Suryakumar, the in-form opener, welcomed K Gowtham with a couple of fours in the first over. He then tried to chip Dhawal Kulkarni over the infield, but Gowtham could not get his hands under the ball diving forward from mid-on.
Jofra Archer troubled Lewis with pace and bounce. The pressure mounted on Lewis and he tried to hack one out of Wankhede, offering a skier which wasn’t taken by Stuart Binny running back from mid-on. Suryakumar then hit Kulkarni for a couple of fours in his second over and Lewis followed suit as Mumbai ended the Power Play at 51 without loss.
Once the fielding restrictions were lifted, Rajasthan fought their way back by varying the pace smartly. Shreyas Gopal bowled a tight first over, giving away just four runs, but Lewis then carted him for two sixes to get his innings going. Jaydev Unadkat bowled well, giving away only 14 runs from his two overs. Sensing the desperation of the Mumbai batsmen, Rahane turned to Archer and the pacer struck gold, taking two wickets in as many balls to get his side right back in the game. Suryakumar pulled one down the throat of Unadkat at fine-leg for a 31-ball 38 and Rohit Sharma was dismissed in the exact same manner the very next ball, for his third golden duck this season.
Lewis struggled for fluency but brought up his second fifty with a six. Just when it looked like he would tee off, Kulkarni had the left-hand batsman caught at deep point for a 42-ball 60. Rajasthan continued to chip away, dismissing Ishan Kishan and Krunal Pandya who were caught in the deep trying to force the pace. Hardik smartly played out Archer (2 for 16) and took the attack to Unadkat, hitting him for two sixes and a four to take Mumbai past the 150-run mark before being caught brilliantly at deep mid-wicket by Samson.