In a nutshell
Mumbai scored 184/8 due to a middle order resurgence, which Pune chased down with a ball to spare courtesy of half-centuries by Ajinkya Rahane and Steve Smith.
How it unfolded
After being put in to bat, Mumbai started with a dangerous looking 42-run partnership between openers Jos Buttler and Parthiv Patel. It was broken by Imran Tahir, who proceeded to create a mini batting collapse of 3-17, taking the wickets of both openers and captain Rohit Sharma. However, the Rising Pune Supergiant failed to keep the run-scoring down, as a 34 from Nitesh Rana and a 27 from Kieron Pollard took the score to triple figures in the 13th over. It was from then on that the visitors accelerated further, with Hardik Pandya leading the charge. The bowling allrounder, coupled by Pollard’s hitting, not only took Mumbai to a competitive end overs total, he demolished Ashok Dinda for 30 runs in the last over to set the Supergiant 185 to win of their 20 overs.
After Mayank Agarwal fell early to Mitchell McClenaghan, Ajinkya Rahane and captain Steve Smith combined to take the attack to the Mumbai bowlers. Rahane was the aggressor, a role he does not often assume, while Smith pushed the ball for singles until he was set in the twenties, when Rahane’s wicket fell, caught off Tim Southee. He then took charge and scored a dominating 84 off 54, combining with Ben Stokes, who chipped in with a 14 ball 21, as well as MS Dhoni, who scored a run-a-ball 12. Smith reduced the equation to 13 off the last over, and he and Dhoni then proceeded to run 3 singles, leaving 10 to win off the last 3. Smith then hit Kieron Pollard for consecutive sixes to win the match for his side and continue his extraordinary run of form.
Where the game was won
Steve Smith. There are no words. Everything that can be said, has already been said. At this very venue, not a month ago, he produced a similar, match winning hundred to haul his team across the line (well, 333 runs ahead of the line, but never mind that). We need to look at Smith with the same standards of excellence he holds for himself. Maybe then we’d stop being surprised when he seemingly pulls vital knocks out of thin air. What his detractors (read: Virat Kohli fans) have to keep them warm at night is the fact that he was dropped on 36 by Nitesh Rana at fine leg off Mitchell McClenaghan.
Pune’s Team Selection was incredible. Taking two overseas wrist-spinners is a risky proposal, particularly if it means extending a shaky lower order and benching one of the world’s premier batsmen. However, Pune identified their weakness with the ball and reinforced this department with the world’s top-ranked T20 bowler and Australia’s highest ODI wicket taker in 2016.
Death Bowling on either side was generally deplorable, what with 30 runs coming off the last over in the first innings and the visitors leaking a hefty 15 runs in the 5 balls that were bowled in the last over of the 2nd innings. However, it was Mumbai that lost heavily due to the strange choice of Kieron Pollard, who averages north of 11 in the last over to bowl against a well set Steve Smith and the destructive MS Dhoni. The dearth of quality of the Indian pacers on either side, Jasprit Bumrah aside, is indicative of India’s problems in the shortest format, where they’ve historically had issues drying runs up.
Fielding was not perfect, which isn’t uncommon in the IPL, but Nitesh Rana’s dropping of Smith at fine leg was possibly the moment that altered the course of the game.
What this means for the tournament
It is still early days for the IPL 10, but a win at home will set Pune’s season in the right direction, after a disastrous 2016 campaign. Mumbai, on the other hand, have a history of starting the IPL poorly, and will not be too disheartened losing against a potent Pune line-up, especially on enemy soil.
For Mumbai, the largest positive will be the lower order batting. Pollard and Hardik Pandya stood up when the team was tottering and put a highly competitive score against a solid bowling line-up. However, there are several concerns. Without Malinga, the bowling looked in shambles. Kieron Pollard is barely a viable option anymore, and while Mitch McClenaghan showed promise, his inconsistent line, and poor bowling to his field made him expensive and ineffective against quality batting. Without Malinga, the bowling lacked a spearhead, and poor management of bowlers put Mumbai in a precarious spot defending what would usually be a comfortable total against a short batting lineup. The batting, despite reaching a good score, was not up to par. After a strong start, none of the batsman were able to convert their twenties and thirties into match-winning scores. The middle order underperformed and without a lower order boost from Hardik Pandya, Mumbai would have been badly under par this game. The fielding was not at its best either. For Mumbai, they would eagerly await the return of an on-song Malinga, as well as hope that their experienced team pick up form soon.
The Pune Supergiant, despite the closeness of the game on paper, would feel like they dominated the game throughout, except at 2 or 3 junctions. The batting was near flawless, and few faults can be found with the performances with the bat. The bowling, however, were not able to pin down the Mumbai Indians after getting early wickets. They allowed Mumbai to slip away after losing a flurry of wickets and that will worry them. The form of Ashok Dinda, who is not famous for his poor performances in last overs, is in the limelight, as he went for 30 runs in his 4th over. Pune, however, would be the happier of the 2 teams, and have plenty of Indian bowling stocks, especially the talented Shardul Thakur to replace any of their misfiring bowlers. They will go into their next match confident and have finally lived up to the potential they boasted when they came to the scene last year.
Vedant Jain is a writer and contributor at CricMetric