Kieron Pollard reminded everyone of just why he was one of the most feared/exciting hitters in world cricket a while back, but the West Indian's smash was usurped by THE man of world cricket right now – Steven Smith – with the Australian yet again demoralising the bowlers in his own inimitable, "just shakes his head in disbelief" way.
Choosing to bat first in Ahmedabad, the Mumbai Indians, desperate to pick up their first win in IPL 2015, after two straight losses, chose to bat first, and, yet again, a collapse followed, with four of the top three falling without making enough of an impression while Aaron Finch had to retire hurt after suffering what looked like a serious hamstring injury.
It was that hamstring injury which jolted MI, who had made a decent start otherwise with Finch and Parthiv Patel. The Royals, though, to their credit, took full advantage of that jolt, forcing MI to stage a major recovery.
That recovery came via Pollard (70, 34b, 7x4, 5x6) and Corey Anderson (50, 38b, 5x4, 3x6), who put on a magnificent 104 runs together in just a tad over 9 overs. From 45/3 in 9.5 overs, Anderson and Pollard took the Mumbai Indians all the way 149/4 in 19 overs, when the West Indian fell off the last ball of the penultimate over.
Pollard was the main man in the partnership, using that ridiculous power of his to clear the boundary at will. Such was the sheer acceleration of the MI innings that the team from Mumbai went from 83/3 in 15 overs to 164/5 in 20 – 81 runs in 30 balls.
With that kind of assault, you expected MI to take the momentum into the second innings and hand the Rajasthan Royals their first loss in IPL 2015. But, when you have a player who goes by the name of Steven Smith in your side, no target, no momentum, no wave can be too much to overcome, and so it proved.
Sanju Samson (17, 16b, 3x4), after a couple of decent boundaries, yet again, failed to find his groove, but Ajinkya Rahane (46, 39b, 4x4) and Smith then went on to ally for 64 runs in 8.4 overs, systematically bringing down the target and keeping those wickets in hand to ensure the final assault would not be hampered.
Rahane's wicket in the first ball of the 14th over was followed by a couple of big sixes from Deepak Hooda, who is making this six-hitting quite a habit, but a brilliant yorker from Lasith Malinga kept the Mumbai Indians in the game.
Needing another 52 runs in 31 balls at that point, it was down to Smith to see his side home, and just like that, with a mere flick of the switch, the Aussie superstar jumped from that one, two-run gear to boundary mode – that is despite the pitch being far from conducive for easy hitting.
Try as the Mumbai Indians might, Smith (79, 53b, 8x4, 1x6) could not be stopped, not even by Malinga, with fours, and a six here or there, coming aplenty – James Faulkner the finisher extraordinaire was not even needed as he watched his compatriot caress the ball to the boundary from the other end -- as the Royals scaled the target with five balls and seven wickets to spare.