Robin Peterson and Ambati Rayudu proved to be the unlikely heroes for Mumbai Indians as they pulled off a four-wicket victory over Kings XI Punjab that had looked highly improbable until the penultimate over of this IPL 5 game. 32 runs were required off 12 balls when Piyush Chawla came on to bowl, the equation was down to 5 off 6 by the time he was done. And despite the best efforts of the excellent Azhar Mahmood, Rayudu smacked a four to finish off the match in Mohali on Wednesday with one ball to spare.
Peterson began the late assault with two switch-hits, earning himself two boundaries before slamming Chawla for a six over deep midwicket. Man-of-the-Match Rayudu then got into the act, coming down the track to go way over deep extra cover, before lofting the stunned Chawla over long-on to make it 27 runs off the 19th over. The game had been turned on its head, and what made the onslaught even more remarkable was that Mumbai had lost two wickets in the previous over.
Young fast bowler Parvinder Awana put Punjab in pole position to do the double over Mumbai, dismissing the dangerous Rohit Sharma and skipper Harbhajan Singh within the space of two balls in the 18th. Sharma, in particular, was a key wicket and was dismissed right after he reached his half-century with a six.
Sharma and Rayudu had kept the visitors in the game, after a sedate opening stand between Sachin Tendulkar (34) and James Franklin (22) was followed by two quick wickets – including Kieron Pollard, caught by Mandeep Singh off Awana for just 3 – that disrupted Mumbai’s chase. At one point the required run-rate was nearing 13 – thanks to some decent bowling from Praveen Kumar and Bhargav Bhatt – but Sharma hit boundaries at regular intervals to keep Mumbai in the hunt. The India batsman’s fifty included three fours and three sixes, and they were as critical to Mumbai’s eventual success as the late heroics from Peterson and Rayudu.
Meanwhile, Punjab owed their total – their highest in this year’s IPL so far – largely to an unbroken 89-run stand between David Hussey and David Miller, after a quiet start saw them manage just 56 for 2 in 10 overs. Even though none of the Mumbai bowlers was particularly threatening, runs were not easy to come by on a slow surface, and Punjab were further pegged back by the loss of openers Mandeep Singh and Nitin Saini in quick succession after a maiden over from Munaf Patel.
Harbhajan, meanwhile, rotated his bowlers frequently, though why Peterson, having been included in the team for his first game of the season and conceded just three runs off the opening over, was not brought back again is something only the Mumbai skipper can explain. Instead, Harbhajan turned to six other bowlers, and the strategy seemed to pay off when Franklin - brought on for his one and only over in the 13th – dismissed Shaun Marsh for a scratchy 17 off 26 balls. The Australian, perhaps attempting to up the run-rate, went for the big shot but could only manage a top edge to Harbhajan at cover.
With the Mumbai bowlers struggling with their line and length, however, Hussey and Miller more than doubled Punjab’s score after that - picking up 88 runs in the next 7 overs - to take their side to a fighting total of 168 for 3. Stand-in skipper Hussey’s unbeaten 68 included 4 fours and an equal number of sixes, while Miller finished off things with a bang, hitting Munaf for two sixes off the final two deliveries of the innings, to finish not out on 34 off 17 balls.
Luckily for Mumbai though, Rayudu ensured their profligacy at the death would not prove to be too costly. With strike bowler Lasith Malinga also landing back in India today, it turned out to be a good day for the Mumbai side overall, as they ended their two-match losing streak to move ahead in the points table with their fourth win in seven matches, while also avoiding defeat to Punjab in both the home and away games.