On a Wanhkede wicket that played like a Wanhkede wicket, the Mumbai Indians finally found their batting mojo to pick up their first home win in IPL 2016. Rohit Sharma led from the front with a nice half-century as MI beat the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) by six wickets.
Chasing for the first time at home, the Mumbai Indians did well to restrict the powerful RCB batting lineup, Virat Kohli and AB De Villiers and all, to 170/7, before chasing down the runs in 18 overs, thanks to Rohit's 62 (44b, 4x4, 3x6).
It was clear from the start that Rohit, back opening the innings with Martin Guptill dropped for the returning Kieron Pollard, would be the anchor in the chase, with Parthiv Patel given the license to throw his bat around. All the left-hander managed to do was get a top edge off a pull shot attempt off Kane Richardson's bowling, to leave MI on 6/1 in 1.1 overs.
However, Rohit and Ambati Rayudu settled the chase down nicely with a 76-run partnership, which allowed Jos Buttler and Kieron Pollard and the rest to come and do what they do best. Much like Kohli and De Villiers' partnership in the first innings, this one for the second wicket was also largely risk-free, with both the right-handers playing smart cricket, knowing the need to keep wickets in hand and take the chase as deep as possible.
So, when Rayudu (31, 23b, 5x4) fell in the 11th over of the innings, to left-arm spinner Iqbal Abdulla, one of six changes to the RCB playing XI, MI were still in control of the chase, needing 80 from 9.4 overs.
Rohit (62, 44b, 4x4, 3x6) and Buttler put on a small partnership to cut the target further, before the skipper fell to a poor shot as Abdulla (4-0-40-3) picked up another wicket. It was now perfectly set for Buttler and Pollard to take MI home, and a 13-run 14th over, off Shane Watson, and a couple of consecutive sixes off Buttler's blade in the next Abdulla over took MI even closer.
While Buttler (28, 14b, 2x4, 2x6) gave his wicket away in the same over, he left with MI needing just 31 from 26 balls, and there was no way the home side were going to lose from there, with Pollard (40 n.o., 19b, 4x4, 3x6)) doing what he does best.
The RCB innings got off to a solid start, with KL Rahul (23, 14b, 2x4, 2x6), after a trial by short ball, smashing a few, before Kohli and De Villiers took over. The Mumbai Indians plan was to be aggressive up front with the new ball, with Tim Southee swinging it around nicely while his New Zealand compatriot Mitchell McClenaghan dished out the short stuff.
One of those short balls struck Rahul's helmet to set the tone for a gripping contest. While McClenaghan eventually won that contest, picking up the wicket of the RCB wicketkeeper, caught at first slip by Harbhajan Singh, it wasn't after the India Test player had done some damage, hitting the left-armer for two sixes and a four.
However, with a decent platform set, the stage was set for Kohli and De Villiers to forge their third straight big partnership, and it looked like going that was as well, as the two went along nicely, hardly taking any risks, while increasing the run rate with every passing over.
At the halfway stage of the first innings, Kohli and De Villiers took RCB to 89/1, before the innings turned in the following over.
Krunal Pandya (4-0-27-2) is already making a name for himself in this IPL, coming out of his younger brother's shadow, and that name only got bigger, as the left-arm orthodox picked up both Kohli and De Villiers in the same over. Kohli (33, 30b, 3x4), first, holed out in the deep at long-off, failing to clear the ground. Pandya then produced a nice loopy delivery to get De Villiers (29, 21b, 3x4, 1x6), who missed his big-shot attempt and found himself out of his ground with Parthiv Patel quickly whipping off the bails.
The innings lost momentum with those wickets, but while RCB could have easily collapsed from there, they hung on, desperate to get some score of note and give their bowlers an opportunity to defend the total.
That came about thanks to Travis Head (37, 24b, 2x4, 2x6), in for the injured Chris Gayle and making his IPL debut, and Mumbaikar Sarfaraz Khan (28, 18b, 2x4, 2x6), who again showed what a nice finisher he is. The left and right-hand combination put on 63 runs together in under six overs to take their team to 170, but it wasn't enough against a marauding MI batting lineup.