Captain Kieron Pollard's incredible 31-ball 83 trumped KL Rahul's unbeaten century as Mumbai Indians edged out Kings XI Punjab in a thriller at Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai on Wednesday (April 10).
Stepping in for the injured Rohit Sharma, Pollard promoted himself to No. 4 and took it upon himself to chase down the stiff target of 198, which MI crossed on the final ball. His innings, studded with 10 sixes and three fours, proved to be the difference on the night which saw Rahul (100* off 64) and Chris Gayle (63 off 36) also play big knocks.
Pollard walked in in the eighth over and took charge from a situation which saw Mumbai needing 133 from the last 10 overs, and fell with only three balls remaining.
Mumbai's chase started with debutant Siddesh Lad hitting a six and a four off his first two balls, but Mohammed Shami ensured there would be no fairytale when he bowled him with a full ball.
Suryakumar Yadav and Quinton de Kock enjoyed early reprieves when David Miller and Rahul dropped catches, but neither batsman could make use of the chance. Mumbai got 50 in the Power Play but slowed down in the next four, adding only 15 runs and losing Suryakumar and de Kock. At the half-way mark, they were 65 for 3 with two new batsmen in the middle.
One of those batsmen, though, was Pollard. He changed the course of the game from that stage, beginning with an onslaught against Sam Curran in the 12th over hitting two sixes and a four. Ishan Kishan was run out in the same over, but Pollard carried on, smashing R Ashwin for two sixes two overs later.
Mumbai added 70 runs in the five overs between overs 11 and 15, going into the last five needing 63. It was a serious possibility, but they had a hurdle in the form of Shami.
Shami had the Pandya brothers in the 16th over, leaving Pollard with all to do. The Mumbai captain showed tremendous game awareness, picking the right bowlers to target. He played out Shami, who finished with figures of 4-0-21-3, but had a go at Curran and later Ankit Rajpoot.
Mumbai needed 32 from the last 2, when Curran bowled a terrible penultimate over, feeding Pollard length balls with pace. The batsman accepted the offerings, smashing two sixes and a four. Curran ended with figures of 4-0-54-1 while Rajpoot conceded two runs fewer.
Rajpoot, who had injured his finger earlier, had the task of defending 15 in the last over. He began with a no-ball which went for six, and followed it up with a boundary ball. There was more drama when Pollard holed out to a bouncer - something the bowlers refused to try earlier - in the third ball, bringing the equation to 4 off 3, and ultimately 2 off 1, with two tailenders.
Alzarri Joseph and Rahul Chahar kept their nerve to wrap up the thriller. Punjab's innings started slowly, had a high, then suffered a low before finally reaching a peak.
The first four overs produced only 20 runs. Gayle scored just three off his first seven before he tore into Jason Behrendorff, smashing him for three sixes and one four in a 23-run fifth over. Rahul was steady at the other end, as Punjab scored 50 in the Power Play.
That doubled in the next five overs, with Rahul attacking Alzarri Joseph and Gayle targeting Hardik Pandya. Gayle was the aggressor but he wasn't slogging wildly - he played four dots off legspinner Rahul Chahar and hit him for a six only when it was in his zone.
Gayle crossed his fifty off 31 balls while Rahul took 10 balls more for his. The partnership was threatening to run away with the game when Behrendorff had his revenge, Gayle cross-batting him to deep mid-wicket for a 36-ball 63 in the 13th over.
Punjab gave David Miller a promotion to No. 3, but Punjab's run-rate suffered most in that period. Punjab scored only 30 runs between overs 13 and 17, with Chahar completing a spell of 4-0-27-0. Miller scored just 7 off 8 while Karun Nair, who replaced the injured Mayank Agarwal and was promoted ahead of Sam Curran, Sarfaraz Khan and Mandeep Singh scored just 5 off 6.
Rahul too was struggling to accelerate, leaving Punjab with a real danger of a slow finish. However, he took control in the last three overs, racing to a century in 63 balls. The second 50 too just 22 balls.
The over that shifted the momentum was the 19th, bowled by Hardik Pandya. Rahul enjoyed the pace on the ball and smashed him for three sixes and a four in a 25-run over. He then hit Jasprit Bumrah for a six in the final over, before getting to his century with a couple to long-off. Punjab added 54 in the last three, but it wasn't enough in the end.
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