MUMBAI: Skipper Rohit Sharma found some form going his way as he anchored Mumbai Indians to an six-wicket victory over Gujarat Lions in an Indian Premier League encounter, hereon Sunday.
Chasing a tricky target of 177, skipper Rohit remained unbeaten on 40 off 29 balls with Mumbai Indians knocking off the target with three balls to spare.
The popular franchise maintained their pole position with four wins in five matches with the only defeat coming against Rising Pune Supergiant. Lions on the otherhand have now lost three out of their four games and are languishing at the second last position in the eight team table.
Credit should also be given to Nitish Rana (53 off 36 balls), who set the platform with another matured effort. Kieron Pollard (39 of 23 balls) also did his bit with some lusty blows to make it easier for the skipper to add finishing touches.
Needing eight runs off the last over, Rohit guided a yorker past the keeper to take the pressure off. A couple of twos sealed it as the skipper looked relieved having gione through a bad patch since the start of the event.
The turning point of the Mumbai Indians innings was the 14th over when Rohit hit Munaf for a boundary and Pollard pulled him for a six. The skipper also lofted Jadeja for an inside out six over extra cover.
It was young Rana, whose half-century and the 85-run stand with Jos Buttler that helped Pollard accelerate in the back-10 in company of Rohit.
Rana’s innings had four boundaries and two sixes. Earlier, Brendon McCullum raced his way to a quickfire 64 while Dinesh Karthik’s cameo provided the late flourish as Gujarat Lions scored a competitive 176 for 4 batting first.
The former New Zealand captain laid the foundation while Karthik smashed 48 off 26 balls which was largely responsible in Lions crossing 175-run mark.
The Tamil Nadu wicket-keeper-batsman struck two fours and as many sixes in his breezy knock after McCullum hammered the MI bowlers all round the park, striking six boundaries and three towering sixes.
It was an off day for Sri Lankan pacer Lasith Malinga, who replaced Kiwi Tim Southee. Malinga went for 51 in his four overs — his most expensive spell in the tournament. Put into bat, Gujarat Lions, had a disastrous start losing opener Dwanye Smith for a duck. He gave an easy catch to Nitish Rana at backward point off Mitchell McClenaghan off the very second ball.
Malinga, conceded 12 runs in his first over at the Wankhede track, where the ball came on to the bat. Skipper Suresh Raina and McCullum then conjured an 80 run stand off 64 balls, with McCullum being the more aggressive of the two.
The Kiwi, made his intentions clear as he first hit Jasprit Bumrah coming down the track and then smashed two sixes off Malinga, one over point and other over mid-wicket, in the sixth over, as the visitors made 46 before the fielding restrictions were lifted.
Malinga conceded 27 runs in his first two overs. McCullum kept on hammering the bad balls, be it Krunal Pandya or seasoned Harbhajan Singh. Raina and McCullum, who rotated the strike well, completed their 50 run stand in 42 balls.
At the half way mark, Gujarat Lions were 75/1. As the two were looking good, Harbhajan (1/22 in 4 overs) stuck in the 12th over removing Raina (28 off 29 balls), who was caught by MI skipper Rohit Sharma as the visitors lost their second wicket on 81. Harbhajan once again was economical in his four-over spell.
McCullum, who regained form in the last math, was going strong before Malinga cleaned him up on 64, with the scoreboard reading 3-99 in the 14th over. Bumrah, who was hit for three fours, gave away 19 runs in the 17th over.