Incredible Smith masterminds Pune chase

A three-for by Imran Tahir on debut, followed by half-centuries from Steven Smith and Ajinkya Rahane, helped Rising Pune Supergiant to a seven-wicket win over Mumbai Indians in Pune on Thursday (April 6) with just one ball to spare.

After letting Mumbai to get to 184 for 8 when they could’ve been contained for fewer, Pune responded strongly by posting 187 for 3 in 19.5 overs to open their Indian Premier League 2017 campaign in style.

Rahane got Pune’s chase off to a fantastic start. He didn’t try to over-hit even when he went aerial, focussed instead on meticulously picking the gaps in the field. He brought up his fifty with a pull shot off the 27th ball he faced.

A six off Krunal Pandya shortly after captured his form perfectly. He got to the pitch and in one smooth flow just appeared to chip it. It still cleared the gigantic Kieron Pollard stationed at long-on. Fortunately for Mumbai, he was caught in the deep off a pull, falling for a 34-ball 60 to end a 58-run stand for the second wicket with Smith, the skipper.

Smith played the anchor’s role but as the asking rate started creeping above 10 following Rahane’s departure, he took the onus upon himself to up the rate of scoring. He was dropped by Nitish Rana at deep square-leg in the 12th over on 36. That seemed to embolden him and he started playing with more freedom, as he got to fifty from 37 balls.

He had MS Dhoni, from whom he took over captaincy, for company at the end of the innings. There were no major Dhoni fireworks as he opted to play to the situation and focussed on feeding the strike to Smith, who was timing the ball sweetly.

In the final over, with Pune requiring 13, the pressure mounted on the skipper as he took strike with the equation coming down to 10 from three balls. But Smith finished it off with two lusty blows for six off Pollard, eventually finishing unbeaten on 84 from 54 balls.

Earlier, the Mumbai innings got off to a flying start on being put in, but the intensity dipped in the middle overs after Tahir put his bag of tricks to great use, returning 3 for 28 in four overs.

In the first four overs, Mumbai raked up 41 with Jos Buttler taking charge. But Tahir started turning things around in the fifth over when he bowled Parthiv Patel round his legs as the wicketkeeper-batsman tried to slog-sweep him.

The legspinner struck twice in his next over to remove Rohit Sharma and Buttler. Buttler, who was looking very threatening and hitting the ball cleanly, got a poor call to be sent back for 38 from 19 balls. The umpire failed to detect the thick inside-edge onto his pad, adjudging him leg before wicket.

Rajat Bhatia, the medium pacer, then took charge. His leg-cutter induced a leading edge from Ambati Rayudu and Krunal Pandya was the next to fall when he top edged an attempted slog-sweep as Mumbai slipped to 107 for 5 in 13.2 overs.

However, Mumbai refused to be pushed into a shell. Pollard took the attack to the bowlers and displayed his intent with a powerful straight hit over Tahir’s head for four.

Rana was out trying to slog-sweep Adam Zampa against the spin to be caught at deep midwicket for a crucial 34 from 28 balls. Pollard was struck on the elbow by an enthusiastic Tahir, who fired in a fast flat throw at the stumps in his follow through. The resulting pain put Pollard off his timing. He was caught at long-on off a low Stokes full toss with Mayank Agarwal taking a spectacular catch diving forward in the 19th over.

Ashok Dinda conceded four sixes and four in the final over of the innings as Hardik Pandya (35* from 15) struck the ball with brute power to various parts of the ground, taking Mumbai to what appeared to be a defendable total. However, with Smith extending his recent purple patch to another game, it was Pune that had the last laugh.

Source: Wisden India

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