Mumbai: Rohit Sharma played a captain's knock and struck an unbeaten 68, while Kieron Pollard smashed 51 not out in just 17 balls to power defending champions Mumbai Indians (MI) to a comfortable six-wicket win over Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) in the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2016 match in Mumbai on Thursday.
Rohit, who made 84 not out when the teams met in the first leg clash at Kolkata, continued to be the thorn in KKR's flesh while Pollard took the game away with his whirlwind knock that contained six huge hits over the fence and two fours.
Rohit put on 72 runs in 30 balls for the unbroken fifth wicket with Pollard, who belted three sixes each in two overs as MI chased down the competitive score of 174 for five with two overs to spare.
Rohit had earlier put on 59 runs for the second wicket with Ambati Rayudu (32) to lay the platform for the mayhem that followed with Pollard hammering a string of towering sixes, including the winning hit off the hapless Jaydev Unadkat to finish off the match in brutal fashion. It was MI's 13th win in 18 head-to-head clashes against KKR and their fourth victory this season in eight appearances that boosted their points tally to eight.
This was also two-time title-winners KKR's second loss, both to MI, in six matches this season. MI lost opener Parthiv Patel in the second over, caught behind by Yusuf Pathan off Jaydev Unadkat, but their two best batsmen of the season – captain Rohit and one-down Rayudu — not only repaired the innings but also gave it the early momentum.
Rayudu set the tone by attacking Shakib Al Hasan, smacking the Bangladesh left-arm spinner for a four and a six in the third over before the two batsmen turned their attention on Umesh Yadav and Unadkat in successive overs. Rohit struck two fours on the off-side off Yadav before smashing Unadkat over square leg for a six.
Rayudu followed suit by pulling the left-arm pacer for three fours, including two identical steers to the third man fence, and the bowler gave away 19 runs in the sixth over at the end of which MI were ahead of the required run-rate with 64 on the board.
Rayudu departed in the next over, caught at deep mid-wicket off Shakib and the promoted Krunal Pandya was castled by Sunil Narine after missing a wild heave to leg to leave MI at 78 for three after nine overs.
Narine struck another blow by having Jos Buttler caught in the deep brilliantly by Chris Lynn with MI needing 69 from 42 balls. Lynn was off balance when trying to take the catch, he but flicked the ball high, jumped over the rope and then back
into the field to complete the catch.
But then came in Pollard and hammered Rajagopal Satish for three towering sixes, one straight and two over mid-wicket and all three into the stands, in the 17th over bowled by part-timer and then struck three more off Unadkat to seal the match in the home team's favour.
Earlier, captain Gautam Gambhir survived an early luck to strike his third fifty in six innings to help Kolkata Knight Riders amass the competitive total. Dropped on eight in the second over, in-form Gambhir — who made 59 off 45 balls — stitched crucial stands of 69 for the opening wicket with Robin Uthappa (36 off 20) and 44 for the third wicket with Suryakumar Yadav (21) after KKR were asked to bat first.
Later, big-hitting West Indian Andre Russell hit a quick 22 off 16 balls with three fours while Yusuf Pathan remained unbeaten on 19 off 8 balls, which included four boundaries. To add to MI's woes, Tim Southee floored catches at deep mid-wicket off Mitchell McClenaghan, who had reprieved Gambhir off his own bowling early on, to let off Chris Lynn and Pathan in the penultimate over.
For MI, playing their final game of the season at this ground, McClenaghan (1 for 33), his New Zealand teammate Southee (2 for 38), seasoned off spinner Harbhajan Singh (1 for 31) and Hardik Pandya (1 for 15) were the wicket takers. KKR were off to a breezy start with the openers raising 69 in 46 balls.
The visitors, champions in 2012 and 2014, raced to 48 without loss in five overs and 59 at the end of the first six power-play overs with Gambhir giving the initial thrust before his partner Uthappa followed suit.