Kolkata: Outrageously gifted, the enigmatic Rohit Sharma has often been an underachiever. The right-handed stylist chose the perfect occasion to uncork one of the more memorable knocks in recent times, providing fillip to the Mumbai Indians’ quest to make it to the plays-offs of IPL 5.
On a slowish track that didn’t necessarily encourage stroke-making, and placed in a must-win situation, Rohit stroked his way to a magnificent century full of silken strokes. Sitting on a six-match winning streak, Kolkata Knight Riders appeared singularly unprepared to counter the magic that emanated from Rohit’s bat as they went down in front of a packed Eden Gardens by 27 runs.
Throughout the competition, the Eden surface has tested the patience and character of batsmen. It needed the class of Rohit to negate the discouraging nature of the pitch as he stroked his way to a fairly brilliant undefeated 109, the joint-highest individual score this season and the second hundred in three days in this edition of the IPL.
Harbhajan Singh had little hesitation in opting to bat first, but Mumbai lost Sachin Tendulkar, felicitated earlier in the afternoon by the Cricket Association of Bengal for having made 100 international tons, in the third over to Shakib Al Hasan. That was the only joy the Knight Riders had for the rest of their bowling stint.
Having recovered from a broken finger, Herschelle Gibbs finally got his first game, and the veteran South African opener watched from the best seat in the ground as Rohit put on a veritable exhibition. Boundaries flowed in a torrent from his broad willow but not a shot was hit in anger as he made batting appear ridiculously simple. Shakib and the admirable Sunil Narine were treated with the respect they deserved but the extra pace of Brett Lee, Jacques Kallis and Rajat Bhatia was taken to the cleaners.
Gautam Gambhir perhaps missed a trick by not summoning Yusuf Pathan’s off spin, but could do little else as Rohit mainly, and Gibbs occasionally, got on the bike and raced away. Such was Rohit’s dominance that he reached his century, off 52 deliveries, well before Gibbs got to his 50, off 48, during an unbroken second-wicket stand of 167 (106b) which powered the visitors to 182 for one.
To scale down such a monumental total on any surface is a tall order. At Eden, the Knights needed a mini-miracle but that wasn’t forthcoming. Gambhir was bowled in the first over, one ball after he was put down by Dinesh Karthik off Munaf Patel without scoring, and Manvinder Bisla fell in the next, knocking the stuffing out of the chase.
Kallis batted on without threatening to cut loose while Yusuf Pathan, finally, found some form but the Knights never got close, settling for 155 for four as Mumbai leapfrogged to third on the table. The only real surprise in the second half was that Harbhajan bowled only one over even though the track called for a greater onus on spin.