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Prior to the last game of the league phase of IPL 2012, The Royals possessed an unique distinction of clinching all games where they had posted 160 plus totals batting first. However, tonight was not to be their night as the Mumbai Indians gunned down the Royals' challenging total of 162/6 in clinical fashion without losing any wickets and with 2 overs in hand to give themselves the perfect tune-up before the play-offs. After chopping and changing the top order as many as 7 times, Mumbai found the perfect opening partner for Sachin Tendulkar in Dwayne Smith tonight. Harbhajhan Singh's tactic of promoting Smith to the hot seat turned out to be a master-stroke as the free-swinging Caribbean allrounder blasted his way to a thoroughly entertaining 58-ball 87. Tendulkar's precision was indeed the perfect foil for Smith's aggression. Earlier in the day, the Royals posted a healthy 162-6 in 20 overs. Dhawal Kulkarni was the bowling star of the day, boasting of an impressive return of 3-18 in his rather delayed season debut. Shane Watson(45) and Stuart Binny (30) provided the RR innings the jumpstart it desperately needed before the lower order ushered in the psychological 160 mark. Eventually, it proved to be too little for the Indians, who will be hopeful of carrying the good form into the Play offs.
With the Daredevils crushing Kings XI Punjab at Dharamsala yesterday, Mumbai's play-offs passage was sealed. The Mumbai Indians collided with the Rajasthan Royals at the the Sawai Mansingh stadium in the final match of the league phase on Sunday evening in what was essentially the first dead rubber of the tournament. Though there was an air of inconsequentiality about the game, Mumbai, coming off a horrendous batting collapse against the Kolkata Knight Riders, were determined to iron out the glitches ahead of the knock-out rounds. Meanwhile, the Royals, whose play-offs chances were doused by the Deccan Chargers were looking to sign off on a high infront of a massive home crowd.
The toss of the coin landed in Rajasthan's favor and Rahul Dravid elected to first. Both teams made two changes apiece. The Mumbai think-tank rested Herchelle Gibbs and Munaf Patel and brought in James Franklin and Dhawal Kulkarni. For the Royals, Shreevats Goswami and Johan Botha sat out to make way for Dishant Yagnik and Brad Hogg.
RP Singh and Dhawal Kulkarni extracted extra bounce and seam movement early on to test the Rajasthan batsmen. Rahul Dravid playing what is most likely his last professional game, uncharacteristically chased a wide delivery to fall for 5 to Kulkarni in the second over. Ajinkya Rahane, one of the stars of the tournament got RR up and running with a couple of lovely orthodox fours. Rahane nudged the ball into the open spaces and appeared to settle into his element. However, Kulkarni struck again just before the close of powerplay to have Rahane caught at short mid-wicket. Infact, the young speedster's 3rd over was a rare wicket-maiden. At the conclusion of the mandatory powerplay, the Royals were in a spot of bother at 31-2.
Soon after, Shane Watson collected 2 boundaries off the blonde Lasith Malinga. Stuart Binny, the new batsman made his intentions clear with a meaty blow off Bhajji that went all the way over the long-on fence. Binny, took a liking to Harbhajan and walloped 22 runs off his next over. Watson, not be left behind in the six hitting fest, deposited Dwayne Smith into the stands. RR's multi-dimensional cricketers counter-punched to transfer the pressure onto the Mumbai camp.
Big Kieron Pollard came into the attack and created an immediate impact by kicking the ball onto the stumps to catch Binny short of his crease. Binny had contributed a quick-fire 17-ball 30 to the team's cause.
An in form Watson though ensured that runs continued to flow at a brisk pace. Pollard, after being hammered for a biggie and four hit bounced back strongly in the same over to force Watson back to the hutch for 45.
Owais Shah(28*), aided by a dropped catch from Malinga shook off his sluggish start and stepped on the accelerator. The English cricketer's trademark swipe over deep square leg for a maximum saw the crowd go berserk. The local lad Ashok Menaria also joined the party to dent RP Singh's figures.
'Missle Malinga' would have cleaned up Menaria had he not transgressed the bowling crease. It did not cost MI dear as the returning Kulkarni had the southpaw caught and bowled for 21 in the penultimate over. Dishant Yagnik (6), making clever use of Malinga's pace helped Rajasthan across the 160 mark before he succomed to the Lankan's slower ball. RR constructed 56 runs off the last 5 overs. Dravid said that 160-170 was the par-score at the toss and his batsmen did a fine job to finish at 162-6.
In an effort to make utmost use of the field-restrictions, Mumbai bumped Dwayne Smith to the top of the order to partner Sachin Tendulkar. Wasting no time, the West Indian imposed himself on the proceedings via a muscle straight six over Ajit Chandila's head. He followed it up with a four off Watson in the next over. Shaun Tait, who was off the radar, bowled 3 wides apart from conceding a boundary to the Master in his first over. The free swinging Smith threw caution to the winds and scored at a swift pace. Meanwhile, Tendulkar was quite content to rotate the strike. In the hunt for 163, Mumbai were unscathed at 44-0 in 6 overs.
Siddarth Trivedi, replacing Tait also sprayed the ball around to gift easy runs. Sachin just about managed to pick Brad Hogg and smartly accepted the ones and twos on offer. The hard-hitting, Smith greeted Chandila back into the attack with a couple of monstrous sixes. The 29-year old reached his first fifty of the IPL by virtue of a flick towards deep mid-wicket.
Trivedi's catch off his own bowling went in vain as the slow ball specialist was found guilty of overstepping. Fortune favored the brave Caribbean King! The 100 of the partnership was notched up in the 12 over.
Sachin was very much in his zone and timed the ball with typical creamy elegance. He got to a half-century of his own in the 16th over. The Royals wilted under pressure as the break-through eluded them. Smith continued on his merry ways and brought the asking rate down to under 4.5. The pair completed the formalities with 2 overs to spare to take Mumbai to an emphatic 10 wicket triumph.
The Mumbai Indians, having set their top order right after trying out 7 different opening combinations have gained valuable match practice ahead of the play-offs. The Champion of Champions will lock horns with the 2 time reigning Champions, the Chennai Super Kings, who have sneaked into the knock-out rounds, courtesy of the Chargers knocking out Bangalore in the early kick-off today. Chennai and Mumbai will collide in the eliminator at Bangalore on Wednesday, 23rd May.
MI: J Franklin, S Tendulkar, R Sharma, D Karthik(wk), A Rayudu, K Pollard, D Smith, H Singh(c), L Malinga, RP Singh, D Kulkarni
RR: R Dravid(c), A Rahane, S Watson, O Shah, A Menaria, D Yagnik,(wk), S Binny, B Hogg, S Tait, S Trivedi, A Chandila
Rajasthan Royals 162-6 (20 overs, 8.1 rpo)
S Watson 45(36) D Kulkarni 3-18
S Binny 30(17) K Pollard 1-29
Mumbai Indians 163-0 (18 overs, 9.05 rpo)
D Smith 87*(58)
S Tendulkar 58*(51)
Mumbai Indians won by 10 wickets with 12 balls to spare.
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