Seasoned Suryakumar Yadav and young Tilak Varma gave the best 35th birthday present to their skipper Rohit Sharma as Mumbai Indians finally opened their account, beating Rajasthan Royals by five wickets in an IPL 2020 match Saturday.
Chasing a victory target of 159, MI reached home in 19.2 overs, courtesy Surya (51 off 39 balls) and Tilak (35 off 30 balls) adding 81 for the third wicket. It was MI's first win after eight successive defeats and even though the result bears little consequence but it is certainly going to keep the five-time champions in a good mind space.
Losing is also a kind of habit like winning, albeit a bad one, as with it self belief also goes out of the window. Rohit didn't look one bit of his cheery self when he was cutting his birthday cake and by the end of the day, a win must have felt like a healing balm.
Teams then manage to snatch defeat from jaws of victory and something of that order was happening on Saturday night before Surya and Tilak sang the redemption song with Tim David (20 not out off 9 balls) providing the finishing touch.
It was Daniel Sams who hit the winning six to send the spectators into a frenzy. Rohit's run of poor scores continued as he tried a slog sweep off Ravichandran Ashwin (4-0-21-1) and offered an easy catch to Daryl Mitchell at square leg.
The price tag of Rs 15.25 crore is increasingly seeming like a noose around Ishan Kishan's (26 of 18 balls) neck as he started well but in desperation to over-compensate mistimed a pull-shot. Surya was once again smooth in his strokeplay and so was MI's most consistent player of the season Tilak, whose lofted six was a delightful watch.
The duo took its own time to first settle down, taking the team's score to 75 in first 10 overs and set an ideal platform to knock off the remaining 82 off back-10. Since there wasn't scoreboard pressure, Surya and Tilak were able to keep the momentum going with singles and doubles while waiting for the occasional loose ball.
Surya brought up his fifty with a muscular six over wide long-on off Ashwin's last delivery off his spell. Tilak followed suit with his second six but soon after both the batters fell going for unnecessary big shots when it wasn't the need of the hour.
From 122 for two, MI slumped to 122 for 4 with Pollard and David at the crease. Earlier, Buttler threatened to hit six sixes in an over but managed four on the bounce in his 52-ball-67 as Rajasthan Royals were restricted to 158 for six by Mumbai Indians in a what was a below par batting show.
Buttler wasn't in his element for the better part of the innings before launching into rookie off-spinner Hrithik Shokeen, hitting him for four consecutive sixes between the long-on to long-off arc. He holed out in the deep in the final ball of the 16th over as MI prevented the England marauder to cause more damage at the death.
Shokeen, who had bowled flat and tight in the previous games, looked like a lamb for slaughter conceding 47 in 3 overs which included half a dozen of sixes, forcing him to come round the wicket but that was of little benefit.
In nine games so far, Buttler has already amassed 566 runs at an average which is northwards of 70 and a strike-rate of 155 plus. But on the day, MI attack performed way better than they have in the initial games with new inductee left-arm spinner Kumar Kartikeya being extremely impressive in his first outing on the big stage.
The best bowler on the day for MI was Aussie pacer Riley Meredith, who had best figures of 2 for 24 in stipulated quota of four overs, cleverly mixing variety of slower deliveries during couple of spells. He gave only three runs in the 20th over.
Debutant Kartikeya (4-0-19-1) had nine dot balls, the prize wicket of rival skipper Sanju Samson, who had by then hit a couple of sixes off Shokeen and more importantly in 24 deliveries conceded just a single boundary which spoke volumes about his temperament.