In a thrilling encounter at the Maharashtra Cricket Stadium, Pune, RPS, the home side edged past the visiting Mumbai Indians by x wickets and opened their account in the second game of IPL 10. Having set a challenging 185 to win, the RPS batted sensibly and ensured right from the beginning that the required run-rate never got out of control. Like we said in one of our earlier articles, the Rising Pune Supergiants had to ensure Mumbai Indians didn’t get past 190 and RPS did just that. It could have been a lot more worse for Mumbai, as they had stuttered to 154 off 19 overs before Hardik Pandya smashed 30 off the last over bowled by Ashok Dinda, hitting four sixes and a four. Mumbai eventually ended up with 184, a lot better than where they would have ended had it not been the last over heroics.
Earlier, Rising Pune Supergiants won the toss and elected to field first. The Pune wicket has developed a reputation of being a tricky one. Most of the games played at Pune have been low-scoring ones. Recently, though, the pitch has tilted in the batsman’s favour. Not willing to take any risks, the RPS put MI into bat. MI started off well, with Butler scoring a quick-fire 38 off 19. Parthiv Patel made 19 before he was bowled from behind his legs by Tahir, the South African leggie who managed a last-minute entry in the tournament as a replacement for the injured Mitch Marsh, after he went unsold during the February auctions. Rohit Sharma, who made a comeback to competitive Cricket after recuperating from an injury, never looked comfortable and was bowled by Tahir’s googly which beat a clueless Rohit Sharma. Jos Butler fell right in the next over and Mumbai were suddenly struggling at 62/3. Rana made a handy 34 off 28, even as Rayudu and Krunal Pandya fell in quick succession on 10 and 3 respectively, both off Rajat Bhatia. Pollard made a more than handy 27 off 17. None of the batsmen got going as a result of which MI were gasping for breathe at 154/7 after 19 overs, before Pandya chastised Dinda in the last over, scoring 30 off it, taking Mumbai to an impulsive 184/8. Imran Tahir bowled a tremendous spell, conceding just 28 off his 4 with 3 scalps.
The Rising Pune Supergiants had a challenging, surely not daunting target to chase. Nothing is impossible for a batting lineup that boasts of Rahane, Smith, Stokes, Dhoni and Manoj Tiwary and RPS were off to a flyer as Rahane lived up to his reputation as someone who scores briskly without being orthodox. His textbook strokes yielded quick runs and by the time he was out, RPS were on course with the score at 93/2 after 10.1. Ben Stokes, the costliest player ever in the IPL, made a sensible 21 as he gave Smith the company he needed, even as he picked from where he had left during the first Test against India at this stadium. Smith ensured the required run-rate never went out of control and accelerated when required. When Stokes was out caught off a Hardik Pandya slower at deep-midwicket, RPS needed 42 runs at a shade above eight an over. MSD walked into a cheering crowd, the volume ratcheting up every second, but couldn’t quite take control of the situation. He was happy to lend Smith the strike who took Pune out of a tense few moments. It eventually came down to RPS requiring 10 off 3 balls, and Smith, contrary to his reputation, slogged the first one over long on and the second over deep-midon for consecutive sixes, thus finishing a thrilling game of Cricket. For Mumbai, Bumrah bowled a tight spell and gave away just 29 off his over. He was unlucky to not get any wickets, as a couple of sitters were put down.
The Rising Pune Supergiants are off to a rollicking starts and would want to turn their fortunes in this season. Do they have the firepower to do it? They surely do. Technique ultimately matters in any format – and they have two brilliant technicians in Rahane and Smith, who when they get going can find gaps and thus accelerate at will. They have the power of Stokes and Dhoni as well. RPS will be hoping this game has tone for the rest of the league.