If Rajasthan Royals have been the sly foxes of the sixth edition of the Indian Premier League 2013, Mumbai Indians have been the elephant in the jungle. Mumbai might be a touch predictable at times, and work to a set plan, but when it does come off, they end up trampling whoever is in their path. On Wednesday (May 15), Rajasthan fought hard in the first half to keep Mumbai down to 166 on a belter of a batting surface, but the rub of the green did not go their way as they slumped to a 14-run loss.
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Faced with a reasonably stiff target, Rajasthan, who had chosen to chase when Rahul Dravid won the toss, needed to get off to a good start. Or, at the very least, a stable one. What they got was anything but. Dravid, who opened the batting, was sent back in the very first over, with Sudhir Asnani, the umpire, detecting a faint edge where there was none. Dravid, who was late on the pull against Mitchell Johnson, stood his ground momentarily, uncharacteristically venting his ire at the umpire's decision.
With the captain gone before the chase had really gotten under way, there was more trouble as James Faulkner, sent in to pinch-hit at No. 3 sliced Dhawal Kulkarni up in the air to be easily caught. Sanju Samson mis-hit a pull and when Ajinkya Rahane holed out, Rajasthan were 28 for 4.
It has been Rajasthan's strategy to hold back their big guns based on the situation and the move appeared to have merit when Shane Watson walked out at No. 5. Even before Watson could take guard, he was welcomed to the battle by a chirpy Kieron Pollard. The two have barely got along since Australia's last tour of the West Indies, and even as the umpires stepped in to calm things down, Watson got to work. Lasith Malinga, not quite at his fittest and a touch down on pace, chose the wrong man to try and bounce, and was flat batted into the crowd over fine-leg. Malinga chose to try and bowl the ball a bit better next up, but the result was the same. Perhaps buoyed by those strokes, Watson took on Pragyan Ojha, but failed to connect cleanly, leaving a gleeful Pollard to make good ground to take the catch. Furious with himself, Watson trudged back to the dugout, only to find that Pollard had finished his exuberant celebration and landed up right next to where the Rajasthan players sat, prompting a further exchange of words.
Stuart Binny, who has punched above his weight all season, and Brad Hodge, added 56 for the seventh wicket, keeping hopes alive. When Hodge (39) was nailed in front of the stumps by a Malinga yorker with an unlikely 23 runs needed off the final over, the game was up and Binny was left unconquered on a 29-ball 37.
If Rajasthan were not quite good enough in the second half, the first 20 overs were set up by Aditya Tare, playing his first game of this season. Tare, who filled the spot left vacant by a tendon niggle that Sachin Tendulkar suffered in Mumbai's last match, smacked a 39-ball 57 at the top of the order. With no other batsman reaching 25, and yet several playing useful little hands, Mumbai got to 166 for 8. In the end, this was enough to give them two points and take them to the top of the table.