While speaking before and after the game, Sanju Samson got two things right. First, that past record does not matter in this format. Coming into the game, Rajasthan Royals had brushed aside the all-powerful Mumbai Indians in five out of last six encounters. With bigger aspirations in mind than fearing about their recent nemesis, Mumbai were a step ahead of Rajasthan in both facets of the game.
Second, Samson had no hesitation in accepting that they were 20-25 runs short. While the number might seem severe given Rajasthan did manage a 171, but given Mumbai got home with nine ball to spare, the assessment is fair. It was a period of five overs from 10th to 14th with the bat for Rajasthan that proved decisive in the end.
With Shivam Dube and Samson in the middle and eight wickets in hand, they managed to score only 30 runs in these overs. Given Nathan Coulter-Nile, playing his first game, bowled two of these, it does not throw positive light on Rajasthan’s approach. When their innings ended, David Miller got to face only four balls while Dube got off the mark on his seventh. A squad already light on world-class resources ended up under-utilizing the ones they have remaining. With too much relying on the death overs, Jasprit Bumrah did what is now a common expectation. Nailing his yorkers and slower balls, Bumrah went for only nine runs in overs 17th and 19th. He finished with the figures of 1/15 and devoid the Royals of a par score.
Put into bat, Rajasthan openers broke an unwanted streak. For the last 21 games before today, going way back to the 2019 season, the Royals lost at least one opener in the Powerplay. Today, Jos Buttler and Yashasvi Jaiswal got together for a stand of a 47-ball 66. After a sedate start against Trent Boult and Bumrah, Buttler rode his luck to delve into the spinners. Put down on the first ball of the fifth over, Buttler toyed with the spinners and pulled Jayant Yadav twice and Rahul Chahar once for a six on the leg side. Jaiswal too did not hang around and took a liking to the short lengths of Coulter-Nile. To Chahar as well, he used the incoming angle to collect a six to the midwicket fence.
However, it was Chahar who had the last laugh against both openers. Both fell soon after hitting him for a six. Buttler did so in the eighth over, dancing down well before the ball was released and missed the turning ball by a mile. Jaiswal went for a defensive route, looking for a single on the leg side in the 10th, but got a leading edge off a googly back to the bowler.
It was then Rajasthan chose to continue with Dube at number four, though this time, half of the innings was done with. In a 31-ball stay, Dube had only four boundary shots - two fours and as many sixes – too few when the knock included 15 dot balls. Apart from Coulter-Nile troubling him with his pace, Mumbai spinners too learnt their lessons from the first half. After keeping it short due to a concern over short straight boundaries, the spinners were better with their lengths in the second half. The RR batsmen had a strike rate of 181 against spin in the first 10 overs and only 115 in the next 10.
Meanwhile, Samson player with calculated aggression. He began with using the length provided by the spinners early to collect three crisp boundaries. After drinks, Samson came hard at Boult hitting him down the ground and behind the wicket in the 16th over. Boult came back to york him in the 18th.
Helped by boundaries on the first and last ball of the last over by Coulter-Nile, Rajasthan crossed the 170 run mark but it proved to be a stroll for Mumbai.
When it was their turn to bat, the Mumbai openers too started well and remained unbeaten till the last ball of the Powerplay. While Rohit Sharma was cautious, Quinton de Kock came back into form. He lapped Mustafizur Rahman and pulled Chris Morris for sixes while Rohit pulled Jaydev Unadkat to collect a maximum himself.
After Rohit’s departure, Suryakumar Yadav joined de Kock. He was his usual busy self and got off the mark with a trademark inside-out shot to Rahul Tewatia off the second ball he faced. He cut Tewatia and slashed Mustafizur to keep his side ahead. At the other end, de Kock reverse swept the leggie and pulled and punched Unadkat as Mumbai ambled on.
Surya’s departure brought Krunal to the wicket who took a special liking to the first ball of each over. To the first ball of overs 15th, 16th and 17th, Krunal took the aggressive route. All three were against different bowlers and to each Krunal had a different option. Tewatia was hit down the ground, Morris flicked and Mustafizur slogged to the midwicket fence. Meanwhile, de Kock brought a 35-ball fifty, Mumbai’s third of the season.
Mustafizur castled Krunal in the 17th over but the end was near. Kieron Pollard took over from Krunal, thumping the first ball of the next over for the six, wide of long-off. Four boundaries – three of them off the bat – in the next eight balls ended the game to give Mumbai a comfortable win. Mumbai have started the Delhi leg on a high and if the pitch remains similar to what we saw today, a likely opening for the teams in the bottom half might prove to be a bridge too far.