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PUNE: An outstanding show by the IPL’s most threatening bowling attack put Mumbai Indians on the verge of a top-four finish, as they humbled Pune Warriors by five wickets at the Subrata Roy Sahara Stadium on Saturday to move to the number two spot on the points table.
Mitchell Johnson’s left-arm pace and angle were once again the major factors in Mumbai’s restriction of Pune to 112/8 in the first half of the contest – a euphemism for what turned out to be a one-way street all along, except for a brief period during which the visiting batsmen looked hellbent on making it difficult for themselves.
But really, it was all set up by the Aussie speedster’s four nigh-unplayable overs that went for just eight runs and included the wicket of Aaron Finch. Johnson was supported ably by Lasith Malinga and Harbhajan Singh as Pune were confined to a below-average total.
The chase – despite the Indians losing opener Dwayne Smith first ball and Sachin Tendulkar soon after (and despite experimenting with the million-dollar Glenn Maxwell instead of Kieron Pollard) – was never a problem.
The loss of the man in form, Dinesh Karthik, jolted skipper Rohit Sharma (37) and new man Ambati Rayudu (26) to re-focus on the task at hand: Mumbai eventually landed home with seven balls to spare. On 18 points and in possession of a decent run-rate, the team now look good for a play-offs berth.
Pune’s discomfort against a top-class attack was apparent from the beginning. Johnson, Abu Nechim and Lasith Malinga took two apiece, while Harbhajan was miserly as he picked up the crucial wicket of Yuvraj Singh (33) when the southpaw was looking to accelerate.
After openers Robin Uthappa (11) and Aaron Finch (10) were out early, Manish Pandey (29) and Yuvraj set about the rebuilding process. Yuvraj smote consecutive sixes off left-arm spinner Pragya Ojha and Pune – stable again at 84/2 in the 13th – looked poised for a climactic flourish.
But a phase of utter ruin followed and Yuvraj’s sixes turned out to be the last hits that Pune enjoyed. Pandey hit a Malinga full-toss straight to mid-wicket, Angelo Mathews was run-out by a direct hit from Tendulkar, and Yuvraj was trapped in front by a wily change of pace by the other Singh – all in the space of six deliveries across two overs.
Pune’s last five fetched them just 24 as Mumbai’s eclectic set proved impossible to get away, the innings ending in a flurry of dismissals – two easy ones for Abu Nechim – on a docile 112/8. Mumbai's next target would be to ensure a place in the top-two and thus receive two shots at making the final.