Rohit Sharma played a captains innings, leading the Mumbai Indians to a nine-wicket victory over the Kolkata Knight Riders in the final league match of the Vivo Indian Premier League at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai on Sunday.
Sharma, who faced 48 deliveries, struck an unbeaten 55 with eight fours to guid Mumbai to 134 for one with 23 deliveries to spare in reply to Kolkata’s 133 for seven after Sharma had won the toss and elected to bowl first.
The victory sends Mumbai top of the IPL and a showdown with the Chennai Super Kings in the first qualifier with the winner moving straight to the final while the loser will face-off against the victor of the Eliminator which will feature the Dehli Capitals and the Sunrisers Hyderabad.
Sharma and Suryakumar Yadav calmly led their side to victory with a partnership of 88 from 61 balls for the second wicket after Sharma and Quinton De Kock (30) had given the home side the perfect start with an opening stand of 46 from 39 balls.
De Kock was his normal self upfront, cracking one four and three sixes before being brilliantly caught by Dinesh Karthik off Prasidh Krishna (3-0-22-1), running back towards the fine leg region, diving forward to effect the dismissal. But that was the only success the visitors would taste as Sharma and Yadav maintain a steady flow of runs with the Kolkata bowlers unable to find the needed breakthroughs.
Yadav was the major aggressor in the unbeaten second-wicket stand, cracking five fours and two sixes, ending unbeaten on 46 from 27 deliveries, cracking the first ball of the 17th over from Andre Russell (2.1-0-34-0) for six over fine leg to win the match.
Russell, who has been the mainstay for Kolkata all season, had a night to forget with both bat and ball, conceding three fours and three sixes from his 13 deliveries bowled as well as falling for a first-ball duck in Kolkata’s innings.
Kolkata were restricted to a paltry 133 for seven with Lasith Malinga (4-0-35-3) using his IPL experience in decimating the KKR middle-order by claiming two wickets in one over, that of Karthik (3), clipped to mid-wicket and caught by Krunal Pandya leaping up and then, after bowling a wide, having Russell caught behind by De Kock trying to avoid contact with the ball.
Malinga also captured the wicket of Nitish Rana (26) who was one of two batsmen who looked aggressive. Rana struck three sixes from 13 balls before being caught at long-off by Kieron Pollard which put the nail in Kolkata’s coffin.
Hardik Pandya (3-0-20-2) put the cat amongst the pideons early on, grabbing his first wicket with his first ball, trapping Shubman Gill (9) in front and then in his next over, having the aggressive Chris Lynn (41) caught behind by De Kock, who ran well to the short-fine leg region after Lynn had top-edged a wide ball from Pandya.
Robin Uthappa (40) struggled throughout his innings, striking one four and three sixes but wasted 25 dot balls from his 47 deliveries before giving Jasprit Bumrah (4-0-31-2) his first wicket, which fell in the final over. Bumrah’s second victim came off the penultimate ball when Rinku Singh (4) lofted the right-arm seamer to Hardik in the mid-wicket region.
The failture of Russell, who has been the leading run-scorer for Kolkata this season, and the struggle of Uthappa, meant the visitors were nowhere near any form of defendable total as Malinga, Bumrah and Hardik bossed things with the ball. De Kock’s aggression up front and Sharma’s assuredness, along with Yadav’s finishing, sent Mumbai to the top and into Qualifier one.