With the impending comebacks of Rohit Sharma and MS Dhoni after their long stay away from the spotlight, the Rising Pune Supergiant versus Mumbai Indians clash was an eagerly awaited contest for fans of both the stars. Rising Pune Supergiant were taking field under a new skipper and had plenty to prove after a disastrous season last year
The second game of the tenth season of the IPLhad plenty to look forward to. Riding on fifties from Ajinkya Rahane and captain Steve Smith, Rising Pune Supergiant won the match by 7 wickets with a ball to spare.
Here’s a look through the 5 major talking points from the game:
#1 Jos Buttler springs a surprise
When Mumbai Indians lost the toss and were put into bat first, all eyes were on Rohit Sharma, who was expected to walk in to bat for the first time on live television since a five-month long injury layoff. But, MI pulled the wool over everyone, sending hard-hitting Jos Buttler to partner Parthiv Patel at the top.
As a wired up Manoj Tiwary admitted through the stump mic, it was a move that could throw RPS’s bowling plans into disarray, and indeed it did. After getting off the mark with a lucky five runs on overthrows, Buttler’s innings panned out exactly as MI would have planned. In a quick cameo of 38 (19), he ensured the team would make full use of the Powerplay overs.
While Buttler cracked a couple of boundaries off the inexperienced Indian medium-pacer Deepak Chahar, his own country-mate was not spared either. In what was Stokes’ first ever over to Buttler in a T20 game, the latter smashed consecutive sixes – one over long on and another, scooped over the keeper.
#2 Imran Tahir runs through the Mumbai top order and the Pune ground
Much of the talk preceding Rising Pune Supergiant’s opening game of the season revolved around their spin bowling combination. Eyebrows were raised when the franchise chose to replace injured Australian all-rounder Mitchell Marsh with Imran Tahir, instead of opting for a like-for-like all-rounder or bolstering their uni-dimensional batting line-up with a powerful striker.
Tahir is the No. 1 T20I bowler but RPS had already in their ranks Adam Zampa, who had a productive season amidst RPS’s woes last year. Going into their season opener, Smith made the tough call of picking Tahir to complement Zampa, at the cost of Faf du Plessis – a move that was fairly unexpected.
After a quick start by Mumbai Indians’ opening pair, Tahir was introduced in the 5th over of the innings to put the brakes on the onslaught. He started off with a boundary ball to Parthiv, but responded to the captain’s call immediately, bowling the diminutive left-hander round his legs.
Rohit Sharma’s much-anticipated comeback was short as he was left clueless by a ripper from Tahir in his next over. Tahir claimed his third wicket of the day when he got the dangerous-looking Buttler trapped in front of the stumps. Replays later showed that there was a thick inside edge, but nevertheless, Tahir had ensured Mumbai would crumble after a promising start.
#3 Hardik Pandya’s game-changing cameo and another expensive Dinda spell
At the end of the penultimate over of Mumbai Indians’ innings, the score read 154/7 and the Mumbai Indians captain would have been a worried man. MI had lost Pollard to a stunning catch from Mayank Agarwal early in the over, just when he looked set and ready to take toll of the last couple of overs.
Smith had one over each of Zampa’s leg spin and Bhatia’s deceptive medium pace, but went for Dinda’s pace. In the next six deliveries, the move spectacularly backfired as Hardik Pandya changed the game altogether. If Dinda’s reputation of leaking runs in limited overs games was not already known to Smith, this over of 30 runs – the most expensive ever final over of an IPL innings – would have driven home the point.
The six deliveries yielded four sixes and a four as Mumbai cruised to 184.
#4 Rahane plays quickest limited overs knock of his career
Ajinkya Rahane had been Pune’s most consistent batsman in an otherwise shoddy campaign for the Pune team last year. Yet, the Indian middle-order batsman was the one who often took most of the blame from fans of the franchise, for his average strike rate.
Throughout the previous season, Rahane had got the team off to good starts, but a lack of power hitters down the order would pull down the scoring every time. Against Mumbai, Rahane played a blinder that would have taken even the most loyal of his fans by surprise.
With a stiff target of 185 required, RPS required a brisk start from its openers. Relying on pure timing and some newfound fearless power, Rahane played shots all around the park, bringing up his quickest ever innings at an hour of need. Hardik Pandya was targetted and Rahane scored three boundaries in one over of his bowling.
Southee was pulled over deep-square, reminiscent of one similar shot Rahane played against the pacy Pat Cummins in the deciding Test of the recently concluded Test series against Australia. McClenaghan was not spared either. Rahane scored 41 runs in the Powerplay and was eventually dismissed on 60 off 34 balls, ensuring a solid platform for the firepower in the middle-order.
#5 Steve Smith’s captain’s knock sees Pune home
Before the season, Rising Pune owner Sanjiv Goenka made a bold call to replace Dhoni as the skipper of his franchise. It was a risky move considering Dhoni’s wealth of experience and success as a captain across all formats.
To put things in perspective, this was the first ever time in 10 seasons of the IPL that Dhoni was not captaining his side. But, change was in order after Pune’s poor performance last year, and Steve Smith, one of the best batsmen in the world and successful Aussie skipper, was put in charge.
How Steve Smith would take over the reigns was being watched with keen interest. Barring the decision to hand the final over to Dinda, he had a great day in his first outing as the captain.
Smith walked in at the cheap dismissal of Mayank Agarwal. Starting cautiously, he preferred letting Rahane do the bulk of the quick scoring while he was at it, but smartly changed gears after the latter’s fall. The first 25 runs of his innings were scored at just above a run-a-ball, but the remaining 60 odd runs came at a strike rate of 200. On the day, Smith overshadowed his more fancied hard-hitting teammates - Stokes and Dhoni – scoring the fifty in his captaincy debut for the franchise.