The Wankhede Stadium has been Mumbai Indians’ fortress over the years, but if there’s one team that has repeatedly stormed it, it’s Rising Pune Supergiant.
Pune got the better of Mumbai both times they had faced off at the venue before the Indian Premier League 2017 Qualifier 1 fixture on Tuesday (May 16), and made it three in three to book their berth in the final with a 20-run victory.
Pune went into the big game without Ben Stokes, but multiple heroes stepped up. Put in to bat, Ajinkya Rahane (56 in 43) and Manoj Tiwary (58 in 48) scored steady half-centuries before a MS Dhoni burst (40 not out in 26) lifted them to 162 for 4.
It was a par score on a slow pitch, but Washington Sundar spun it Pune’s way with a spell of 3 for 16 that broke the back of Mumbai’s chase and helped restrict them to 142 for 9 when time ran out.
At the start, Pune had two overseas options in Usman Khawaja and Lockie Ferguson to pick as a replacement for Stokes. They chose Ferguson, meaning they were light on batting. To make things worse, they lost two in-form batsmen in the first two overs – Rahul Tripathi missed a quick, straight one from Mitchell McClenaghan before Steven Smith got a leading edge to point when he tried to play his favourite flick shot to Lasith Malinga.
At 9 for 2 and a box-office batsman short against a relentless attack, Pune were clearly in trouble. That’s when Rahane, woefully out of form this IPL, decided to step up. With Tiwary for company, Rahane began a revival, rotating the strike and also finding the boundaries to ensure Pune didn’t go into their shell.
Rahane was sturdy but also smart in his approach. He targeted McClenaghan as the boundary-scoring opportunity and was more respectful of Jasprit Bumrah and Malinga. Only 33 runs came in the Power Play, but Rahane at least ensured Pune didn’t slide further.
Mumbai, though, kept things tidy as Karn Sharma and Krunal Pandya – chosen ahead of Harbhajan Singh thanks to Pune’s predominantly right-hand heavy batting line-up – sent in some quiet overs. Rahane, though, targeted the weaker bowler in Hardik Pandya and kept the scoreboard moving, crossing his half-century off 39 balls.
Rahane fell in the 13th over when he failed to read a googly from Karn, resulting in a dip in scoring rate. Tiwary continued to score at around a run-a-ball, and Dhoni struggled to connect with his big wings, and Pune had only 121 on board after 18 overs, with Dhoni on 14 off 18.
It all changed dramatically in the last two overs though, with Dhoni hitting a few massive sixes. It began with Tiwary slamming ten runs off the first two balls from McClenaghan – of which one was a no-ball – before Dhoni took over. The former Pune captain smashed two more sixes to make it a 26-run over, before doing the same to Bumrah in the last over. All of a sudden, Dhoni had gotten to 40 off 26, with Pune plundering 41 off the last two overs, and the momentum had shifted.
Parthiv Patel shifted the advantage briefly with a flurry of boundaries, repeatedly eyeing the leg-side boundaries for sixes. The story, however, was different at the other end where Lendl Simmons was struggling. Pune got a breakthrough in the fourth over with some good fortune when Simmons backed up too much at the non-striker’s end and was run out by a deflection by the bowler off Parthiv’s straight drive.
More luck awaited Pune when Rohit Sharma was given out lbw to Washington in the next over, although replays showed he had got a big inside edge. Soon, the floodgates opened when Ambati Rayudu pulled the third ball he faced to midwicket where Smith took a sharp, low catch. Washington bagged two in the over and Mumbai were in trouble at 43 for 3 at the end of the Power Play.
It only became worse when Pollard flicked Washington to midwicket an over later, handing the 17-year-old offspinner his third scalp. Hardik counter-attacked with a couple of neat shots but fell when he chipped Ferguson straight to long-on in the 12th over.
Meanwhile, Parthiv was playing a steady hand at the other end and went past his half-century, but the equation kept getting tougher, with Washington finishing a miserly spell. Still, at 62 needed off 34, they had an outside chance but even that ended when Shardul Thakur induced both Krunal and Parthiv to mistime shots to the deep with knuckle balls.