The afternoon began with news coming out of the Rajasthan Royals camp that Jos Buttler, the team’s standout performer was going back home and Steve Smith had replaced Ajinkya Rahane as captain.
Everyone must have thought that a struggling team would have trouble coping with such developments, especially against a red-hot team as Mumbai Indians. But there was none. Royals cruised to a five-wicket win and kept their hopes alive in the Vivo-IPL-12.
It was a truly remarkably win for Royals, playing without their leading scorer.
The way Smith led his side to victory was remarkable, too. After handling his bowlers with imagination — he had rightly put MI in — he showed grit and application with the bat to help his team reach home with five balls to spare.
He remained unbeaten on 59 (48b) and his 70-run partnership with the impressive 17-year-old Riyan Parag (43, 29b) had more or less settled the issue.
Leg-spinner Rahul Chahar’s second successive three-wicket haul had put Royals under some pressure.
That was after Sanju Samson, the obvious choice to take up Buttler’s opening position, gave the side a fine start with his trademark delectable strokes.
Earlier, Royals did well to keep MI’s run-rate at just over eight — that too after dropping three catches, all by Jofra Archer.
The England all-rounder, however, redeemed himself right after dropping the third catch, dismissing the dangerous Hardik Pandya, whose onslaughts towards the end have been crucial in MIs campaign this season. He came up with a brilliant yorker to trap the batsman leg-before.
Hardik did his bit on this day too, making 23 off 15 balls, after being dropped on two and 14, both off Jaydev Unadkat. But Royals had to pay a costlier price for the other dropped catch.
Opener Quinton de Kock was on six when he mistimed ambitious shot off Shreyas Gopal to long-on, where a running Archer got both hands to the ball but failed to hold on.
Earlier in the over, the leg-spinner had provided Royals the breakthrough, with yet another googly. He had Mumbai captain Rohit Sharma stepping out of his crease and offering a bat-pad return catch.
In the next over, de Kock celebrated his reprieve, hitting Dhawal Kulkarni for three fours and a six in a row. The South African left-hander (65, 47b) was finally sent back by a another Shreyas googly.
He had made his second half-century of the season against Royals. His second-wicket stand with Suryakumar Yadav (34) was worth 97.
That did not prove to enough though, as MI’s dismal record continued at this venue, where it hasn’t won since 2012. And it was its second loss to Royals inside a week.
Mumbai Indians: Quinton de Kock c Stokes b Shreyas Gopal 65; Rohit Sharma c & b Shreyas Gopal 5; Suryakumar Yadav c D Kulkarni b Binny 34; Hardik Pandya lbw b Jofra Archer 23; Kieron Pollard b Unadkat 10; Ben Cutting not out 13; Krunal Pandya not out 2. Extras: (LB-5, W-4) 9
Total: (For 5 wkts, 20 overs) 161
Fall of wickets: 1-11, 2-108, 3-111, 4-124, 5-152.
Bowling: Stuart Binny 3-0-19-1, Dhawal Kulkarni 3-0-31-0, Shreyas Gopal 4-0-21-2, Jofra Archer 4-0-22-1, Jaydev Unadkat 4-0-46-1, Riyan Parag 2-0-17-0.
Rajasthan Royals: Ajinkya Rahane c S Yadav b Chahar 12; Sanju Samson c Pollard b Chahar 35; Steven Smith not out 59; Ben Stokes b Chahar 0; Riyan Parag run out (Cutting/H Pandya) 43; Ashton Turner lbw b Bumrah 0; Stuart Binny not out 7. Extras: (B-4, LB-2) 6
Total: (For 5 wkts, 19.1 overs) 162
Fall of wickets: 1-39, 2-76, 3-77, 4-147, 5-153.
Bowling: Hardik Pandya 4-0-31-0, Krunal Pandya 2-0-24-0, Lasith Malinga 3.1-0-27-0, Rahul Chahar 4-0-29-3, Jasprit Bumrah 4-0-21-1, Mayank Markande 2-0-24-0.