Rohit Sharma made an important 37 in Mumbai's chase. (BCCI Images)
Pune: What was expected to be a mismatch turned out to be just that, as Mumbai Indians beat the woeful Pune Warriors by five wickets in front of their home fans at the Subrata Roy Sahara Stadium on Saturday. With a place in the IPL 6 playoffs at stake, Mumbai kept Pune to 112 and knocked off the target inside 19 overs to move to second place on the leaderboard with 18 points. Defeat put Pune on par with their worst slump of nine consecutive losses, which they suffered in the 2012 season.
With nothing to play for, Pune made five changes in an attempt to do damage to Mumbai's play-off hopes but failed to find any lift. Not surprisingly, it was the feeble batting that led to defeat. In their previous match only two batsmen reached double digits and today the situation was not much better. The highest score was 33 but most incriminatingly, Pune did not score a boundary after the 11th over.
Once again it was Mitchell Johnson who struck early, getting Pune captain Aaron Finch to drive an easy catch to cover for 10. Robin Uthappa went next, playing across a swinging Lasith Malinga full toss for 11 in the fifth over, and with the spin pair of Pragyan Ojha and Harbhajan Singh checking the boundary flow, Pune scraped to 58 for 2
Yuvraj opened up with successive log-swept sixes off Ojha in the 11th over, which prompted the recall of Malinga. Sure enough, he produced the wicket as Manish Pandey (29) swung a full toss out to deep midwicket. Things turned worse in the next over, with the run out Angelo Mathews without facing and Yuvraj (33) being given lbw to Harbhajan. A superb direct hit from Sachin Tendulkar at short third man got rid of Mathews (0) while two balls later Yuvraj played across the line and was struck in front of off stump. In five deliveries Pune had crashed from 84 for 2 85 for 5.
Glenn Maxwell, finally getting a game, spilled Kane Richardson off his own bowling but the drop cost hardly anything as Johnson returned and took out the bowler for 8, slogging to long-on. That terrific 18th over cost just two, giving Johnson the outstanding analysis of 2 for 8. With Abu Nechim rounding off the innings with two wickets in the last over, Mumbai were left to chase 113.
Teams that don't score boundaries for 51 deliveries don't win many matches, and despite a spirited defense Pune were always going struggling. Mumbai's top order struggled in the run-chase but Rohit Sharma (37) and Ambati Rayudu (26) forged a 54-run stand for the fourth wicket to steer the team home. Dwayne Smith was bowled first ball by Ashok Dinda and Sachin Tendulkar (15) and Dinesh Karthik (17) got starts only to perish when trying to attack Ajantha Mendis and Yuvraj.
From 39 for 3, Rohit hardly broke a sweat as he took charge of doing the bulk of the initial scoring through gentle dabs and tucks. Rayudu accelerated in the 15th over by striking Yuvraj for six and taking fours off the first two deliveries of the next over, but fell pulling Dinda to deep square leg to leave Rohit and Maxwell to chase the remaining 20 runs. Maxwell provided a glimpse of what he can offer by swatting Dinda for four and six in the 18th, ending not out on 13 off seven balls. With the scores leveled, Rohit steered Richardson straight to short third man but the win came three balls later as Harbhajan slammed four.
This sealed Mumbai's third win in a row, following defeats over Chennai Super Kings and Kolkata Knight Riders, and moved them to No. 2.