The Mumbai Indians would have been wondering what might have been had they bought Lendl Simmons at the auction rather than bringing him in as a replacement midway through IPL 2014.
The West Indian opener has been in great form since getting into the MI side, providing solidity at the top of the order. But on Wednesday night in Mohali, against the best side in IPL 2014, Simmons (100 n.o., 61b, 14x4, 2x6) was unstoppable, making boundary-hitting look easier than finding an Irishman at a beer fest, storming to an unbeaten hundred with ridiculous ease.
Put into bat first, the Kings XI, playing their first game in Punjab this season, threw away a strong start, to finish on a never-gonnabe-enough 156 for eight, with the man that everyone came to see – Glenn Maxwell – leaving his pyrotechnics back in the hotel room for the night.
Simmons was a one-man wrecking machine in the second innings as the Mumbai Indians cruised to the target with seven wickets and one over to spare, to boost that net run rate just that little bit and keep their hopes, albeit slim, of making the playoffs alive.
Kings XI Punjab remain top of the table on 18 points from 12 matches despite the defeat, while the Mumbai Indians pulled level with the Royal Challengers Bangalore and Sunrisers Hyderabad on ten points. MI now need KKR and/or the Rajasthan Royals to lose their remaining two matches, while winning their own two games as big as they can to sneak through on net run rate.
The result was written on the wall from the off really, as Simmons just flayed the KXIP bowlers with absolutely no hesitation from over one.
MI have had trouble finding reliable openers this season, the prime reason behind their five-match losing streak to begin IPL 2014, but ever since Simmons has come into the side, he has just given the defending champions that bit of assuredness at the top, with the right-hander seemingly just getting better and better with every passing game.
Michael Hussey, the man of the match from the last game, was a mere spectator in the first six overs, as Simmons blitzed MI to 62 in the first six overs, while also scoring the fastest 50 by a Mumbai Indians player this season, with his half-century coming in just 27 balls.
Hussey (6, 13b, 0x4, 0x6), starved of the strike, but seemingly happy to just knock the ball around, surprisingly fell in the seventh over, castled by Akshar Patel, but there was simply no stopping Simmons, who just kept finding the boundaries at will.
Ambati Rayudu (17, 14b, 0x4, 0x6) came and went as Simmons continued his assault, with Rohit Sharma (18, 20b, 2x4) giving him company until the 18th over, before Kieron Pollard came in and watched his international teammate become the first player in IPL 2014 to hit a century – Simmons getting to the magical three-figure mark with a flick to midwicket, with Pollard then finishing the match off with a massive six.
Earlier, Kings XI got off to a rollicking start, only to lose their bearings in the second half of the innings to eventually finish with a below-par score.
Virender Sehwag, nobody prettier when in full flow, was in the mood right from the off, crashing Praveen Kumar, back in the side, for a four and a six in the first two deliveries of the innings, before smoking another six off Krishmar Santokie in the next over.
The Mohali crowd seemed to be in for a Sehwag special, only to be curbed of that treat thanks to a freak dismissal. The India veteran played a shot straight and ran for a quick single, but Manan Vohra, responding to the call, inadvertently stopped the ball with his foot, allowing the bowler Kumar to hit the stumps from close with Sehwag well short of his crease.
Vohra looked to get over that early disappointment, and his unfortunate part in the dismissal, by taking to the Mumbai Indians bowlers, but the right-hander was not at his fluent best on the night, scratching his way to a 34-ball 36 (4x4, 1x6).
Shaun Marsh, in for David Miller, though, was more than in his zone, carrying on from where Sehwag left off with the Australian left-hander making good use of his first opportunity in IPL 2014. Marsh stormed his way to 30 from 16 balls, before one big-shot attempt too many led to him holing out in the deep off Santokie, who was yet again just a tad too expensive for MI's liking.
Marsha's wicket in the 10th over, was followed by a couple in the next, with Shreyas Gopal (two for 32), who had gone for 25 in his first two overs, bouncing back brilliantly in his third by picking up Vohra and the main man Maxwell – the Australian tyro yet again falling to a leg-spinner, looping a catch back to the bowler.
From 85 for one in nine overs, KXIP slumped to 93 for four in 11 with those flurry of wickets, as MI took a stranglehold of the game in the second half, with only Bailey's 30-ball 39 (2x4, 2x6) taking Punjab to a score near 160, which was overhauled by MI with consummate ease.