Three half-centuries from Aaron Finch, three man of the match awards, three Gujarat Lions wins. The Mumbai Indians were the latest side to go down to the new franchise as Suresh Raina's men picked up a hat-trick of wins in IPL 2016, after a thriller at the Wankhede Stadium on Saturday.
After asking MI to bat first, the GL bowlers, a big eighth-wicket partnership notwithstanding, restricted the home team to 143/8 in the 20 overs. However, MI put up a really strong fight with the ball on this not-a-tailor-made-for-batting wicket, only for Finch (67 n.o., 54b, 7x4, 1x6) to anchor the innings to perfection again and see the Gujarat Lions home off the final ball of the innings.
Brendon McCullum fell early, after smashing a big six off Tim Southee, to Jasprit Bumrah, but Finch continued his good form with the bat, by getting things rolling along smoothly enough, with Suresh Rina also doing his bit. When the two were at the crease, it looked like the chase would be an absolute cruise as the required run rate fell below the seven mark.
However, a short ball, of course it was, got Raina (27, 22b, 3x4, 1x6) out, and with Dinesh Karthik throwing his wicket away and Dwayne Bravo falling victim to a poor decision from the umpire, the Mumbai Indians were suddenly in the game, as the equation came down to 57 from 42, before it got a little more tighter at 45 from 30 balls.
Finch released the pressure a little by pummelling a big six over wide long-on off Harbhajan Singh, but Mitchell McClenaghan brought the Mumbai Indians back in the next over with the wicket of Akshdeep Nath (12, 11b, 1x4).
However, all that wicket did was bring in the finisher James Faulkner, and the right-hander looked like he was going to take GL home, along with Finch, bringing the equation down to 13 from 12 balls, before McClenaghan (4-0-21-4) struck a big blow again, dismissing the all-rounder. A second wicket in the same over followed, as Praveen Kumar dabbed one through to Parthiv Patel, with that excellent over, where only two runs were conceded, leaving GL needing 11 off the last over.
Finch, struggling with a hamstring injury, had to do it on his own, but with his running seriously hampered, boundaries were the only way forward. Against Bumrah that is never an easy thing, and a two and a single off the first two balls later, it was down to Dhawal Kulkarni to keep his head with GL requiring eight off the final four. Kulkarni, coming off a great bowling performance, stepped up in style, with a boundary over wide mid-off, which cut the equation to four from three.
A single followed, leaving Finch on strike, with the Australian taking a couple straight to make it one needed off the final ball of the innings. Finch was never going to miss out, as the Victorian pulled one over midwicket off the last ball to take GL home in style.
The first innings did not start well for the Mumbai Indians, as the skipper Rohit Sharma fell in the second over, picking out square-leg with a flick of the bowling of Dhawal Kulkarni. Kulkarni (4-1-19-2) would then send Hardik Pandya back in his next over, with another catch going to the same area, as the No.3 experiment failed again.
A Jos Buttler (16, 21b, 3x4) special would have been really welcome for the home fans at this point, but the England man failed to get the tonking going, with Shadab Jakati getting him stumped around the legs. Pravin Tambe would then pick up two wickets in his two overs – of Kieron Pollard and Parthiv Patel (34, 29b, 2x4, 2x6) to further dent Mumbai's innings, before Harbhajan Singh fell to Dwayne Bravo, to leave MI on 88/6.
It only got worse as Ambati Rayudu, the last established batsman, was bowled by James Faulkner, but Krunal Pandya, the brother of Hardik, and Tim Southee put on a crucial 42-run partnership to get MI something to defend. Those runs came in just 2.5 overs, as outside edges and slogs and slices all found the much-needed boundary.
That partnership gave MI the momentum going into halftime of the IPL 2016 match, and if not for Finch, it would have been enough for a win.