(The Times Of India)
A cheering full-house at the Wankhede on Saturday got its money’s worth as Mumbai Indians, played a flawless game of cricket and virtually booked a berth for itself in the playoffs, which begin from May 24.
For a Delhi Daredevils fan, though, the night spelt the near-end of a dream that was rekindled solely by Virender Sehwag from hopeless situations in recent days. But on Saturday, he lasted just four balls and the team failed to recover thereafter. They are good as ‘dead devils’ in this tournament now.
MI churned out the kind of stuff that befits their status this season as table toppers, thrashing the Daredevils by 32 runs to stamp their dominance in the competition. Asked to take first strike by the Devils, MI, perhaps keeping the Sehwag factor in mind, put in a power-packed performance with the bat as they raced to 178 for four.
Almost all their batsmen looked in a hurry to get on with it as the hosts put up a total which put more pressure on Sehwag to come good yet again.
Ambati Rayudu top-scored with 59 (39b, 7×4, 2×6) and Rohit Sharma blasted 49 off just 32 balls (2×4, 3×6), and the two in-form , high-quality batsmen added 87 off 56 balls for the third wicket but the real surprise package for the blue brigade was Aiden Blizzard, the Aussie opener, who crashed eight fours in a 23-ball 37.
The Devils were out of the game once they were reduced to rubbles at seven for four. The rest of the proceedings were nothing more than extended last rites that induced nothing more than yawns.
Munaf Patel bagged Viru’s prized scalp, but the seamer would be more elated about the outstanding catch he took to send back Yogesh Nagar off Harbhajan. For MI’s fielding coach Jonty Rhodes, this was as big a certificate of success as he could imagine! Bowling the first over of the innings, Bhajji prised out Gilchrist in the last game, and this time, he trapped the dangerous Warner.
Y Venugopal Rao (37, 27b, 4×4, 1×6) and James Hopes (55, 44b, 10×4) tried their best to revive a dying challenge with an 87-run partnership, but it was never going to be enough on a night that belonged to MI from start to finish. Ultimately, they were bowled out for 146.
Earlier, the game began on a perfect note for the Mumbai Indians as they finally seemed to have found the perfect partner to Sachin Tendulkar.
Blizzard took a heavy toll of the Daredevils’ best bet, seamer Morne Morkel, carting him for five boundaries in the third over. Using the bottom handed grip to superb effect, the 26-year-old, who is yet to play for Australia, helped MI to an explosive start — the 50 off the innings coming off 29 balls. Just as the Daredevils seemed to drop their shoulders, some much-needed relief arrived as Tendulkar was castled while trying to send Irfan Pathan to the orbit, and Blizzard pulled left arm spinner Shahbaz Nadeem to a smiling Sehwag at short midwicket. Blizzard’s cameo promises brighter things for MI in the future.
Rayudu and Rohit have been in exemplary form throughout the IPL, and now seem a certainty for India’s tour to the West Indies. Both can play strokes that leave the viewer breathless and the fielders stranded in their positions.
Each of the three sixes that Rohit smashed on Saturday night were a treat to watch. The second one hit the roof of Wankhede, while the third was the 400th six of this IPL. Rayudu’s flick off Agarkar that went over David Warner at deep square-leg, was a memorable stroke too, as was his pulled four off Hopes. By the time both were back in the pavilion , MI were already sitting atop a healthy total.
The Daredevils paid for their fielding lapses, in a game where they should have been all the more up to the mark for a game that held so much importance for them. Warner, the team’s best fielder by a fair distance, dropped Rohit at deep square leg.