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KKR into Playoffs

Mumbai Indians got back to winning ways with a nine-run win over Kolkata Knight Riders to top the table with 20 points. Led by defiant half-centuries by once the mainstays of Mumbai Indians batting, Ambati Rayudu and Saurabh Tiwary, the two-time IPL champions posted a total that required some chasing. And even though KKR failed in their attempt of going past the finishing line, they guaranteed themselves a spot in the Playoffs.


The cooling-off period after initial blow

When Rohit Sharma revealed at the toss that Mumbai Indians had rung in five changes, it was almost inevitable that a new opening pair was going to take guard for them. Out walked Lendl Simmons with Tiwary in an attempt to provide their side a rollicking start. But third over, they hit their first speed bump. Simmons was struggling against Trent Boult throughout the first over, and attempting to break the shackles, he couldn’t clear the mid-off fielder. Sunil Narine took the catch and it was a duck for the West Indian. MI’s newest opening combination could only put 12 runs. Rohit Sharma walked out at No.3, and Mumbai made steady progress through his alliance with Tiwary, reaching 51 at the end of Powerplay. Rohit in particular looked in sublime nick. He took Umesh Yadav for 8 runs in one over, barring a leg bye and was ready to use his feet to Narine, not allowing the bowler to settle. A six was launched off Umesh that brought up Mumbai’s fifty. At the other end, Tiwary collected five boundaries off his own with some sparkling cuts and drives in there.


Tiwary, Rayudu push Mumbai to reasonable total

Mumbai’s progress was dented by the wicket of Rohit, who didn’t quite read a slower one from Ankit Rajpoot and was out leg before. In 10 overs, Mumbai were 80/2. From there to the end of the 13th, they had only moved to 99/2. Rajpoot, Narine and Kuldeep Yadav bowled on those nagging lines and alarmingly for Mumbai, the boundaries dried up and the frustration level is creeping up, evident from random heaves. Just two boundaries scored between over 10 and 13. That is before Tiwary got a move on in the 14th over from Narine. He was 43 off 40; you’d imagine a little slow, but then back-to-back fours brought up his half-century. Ambati Rayudu took a leaf out of his partner’s book. In the next over, he launched Umesh for a four and six off consecutive balls before a poor calling saw Tiwary getting run out. A four followed by a wristy flick off Boult brought up Rayudu’s half-century. He really switched gears in the final four overs. From 24 off 20, he moved to 52 off 32. He tonked consecutive sixes off Yadav to take Mumbai near the 170-run margin, but going for a third, he was out stumped. A stellar final over from Boult, where he conceded just five runs and picked up the wicket of Kieron Pollard meant that KKR needed to chase 174, a reasonable total.


Mumbai bowlers make their mark

It wasn’t the day for Sunil Narine’s exploits. Three dots and out came the aerial drive from him. The ball went high and Hardik Pandya took an easy catch to leave KKR 0/1. However, despite the wicket, Gautam Gambhir and Chris Lynn went after the bowling. Gambhir welcomed Mitchell Johnson with consecutive fours, while Lynn batted in his usual marauding manner. Gambhir in fact was looking in incredible nick having moved to 21 off 15 before Johnson got his wicket. He had already taken the left-armer for two more boundaries, after which the left-armer, bounced him out. With two down, KKR had their hopes pinned on Robin Uthappa but Karn Sharma sent him back cheaply off the last ball of the Powerplay.


Vinay removes Lynn as KKR fumble

The major dent for KKR came with the fourth wicket, that of Lynn. The Australian, who had played so amazingly, having hammered three fours and two sixes, middle one to substitute fielder J Suchith at deep midwicket. And the man with the wicket was a veteran, Vinay Kumar, who struck off his first over of the tournament. Lack of partnerships is what hurt KKR the most. Everytime someone looked to get going, Mumbai hit back with a wicket. After Gambhir and Lynn, Yusuf Pathan followed the same trend. After some lusty blows, one shot too many saw him heading back to the dugout. It was a flat hit off Vinay that found Hardik Pandya at mid on.


A spotless final over and a streak broken

 At 87/5 and their back against the wall, Manish Pandey and Colin de Grandhomme gave KKR hope with a 41-run partnership. The required rate was still a touch above eight hence the alarm bells were yet to ring in the KKR camp. De Grandhomme scored four boundaries in seven balls, and followed it with an imperious hit off Hardik Pandya. The next over though, the bowler had his revenge, a length ball nipping in and smashing onto de Grandhomme’s stumps. Pandey departed three overs later to a catch from Suchith, who had dropped him an over before. As play entered the final phase, pressure not only got to the players but even the umpire – Johnson fumbled near the third-man boundary to give away a boundary and the umpire falsely gave Kuldeep out caught behind. With 14 to defend off the final six balls, Hardik bowled a spotless final over, giving away just four runs, handing KKR their first loss while chasing at Eden Gardens for the first time since 2013. Despite the loss, KKR secured a play-off berth on the basis of a superior run-rate.



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