IPL 2017: Dhoni, Sundar seal maiden final berth for RPS

If ever the best team of this season, Mumbai Indians, had a few concerns against any side, it was the Rising Pune Supergiant, who had beaten them twice in the league stage. RPS, though, were jolted early but recovered in time to post a challenging total of 162 in 20 overs. Mumbai, in contrast, started off on a blistering note but were rocked thrice in two overs from Washington Sundar to find the chase going downhill. In the end, RPS sans Ben Stokes outdid Mumbai Indians on their own turf to become the first side to enter the IPL 2017 final. Mumbai would now fall back on the privilege earned by topping the table as they get a second shot to enter the final when they take part in Qualifier 2 on May 19.

Ajinkya Rahane’s liking for Rising Pune Supergiant

Ajinkya Rahane has opened the innings for RPS throughout this season, but his ordinary returns has had a direct bearing on the team’s poor run-rate in the powerplay overs – the second worst after Royal Challengers Bangalore. When RPS lost their young opener Rahul Tripathi in the opening over itself, an out-of-sorts Rahane was immediately under pressure. And when Steve Smith got out in the following over, RPS were looking down the barrel all too early in the high-pressure clash.

Just like all good batsmen do, the Mumbai-born batsman took matters in his hands and dispatched Mitchell McClenaghan for back to back boundaries in the third over. If McClenaghan had received his share, Rahane quickly shifted his focus to legspinner Karn Sharma, hitting him for a four and six in two consecutive overs. Hardik Pandya was hit for a six too, before Rahane raised his first fifty of the season off just 39 balls, choosing the most opportune moment for his side. Although Rahane fell with seven overs to spare, his knock at the top ensured that not only RPS recovered from their early jolts, but also provided even grounds for the duo of Manoj Tiwary and MS Dhoni to propel them to a challenging total.

How RPS emerged out of the shadows of Ben Stokes?

RPS had seen the back of Tripathi and Smith inside the first two overs and the immediate reaction in the camp would have been of panic, more so with no Ben Stokes in their side. While Rahane put his hand up with a 43-ball 56, Manoj Tiwary played a smart hand across two partnerships, first with Rahane and then with Dhoni.

While batting along side Rahane at the crease, Tiwary had struck only two fours and one six. Krunal Pandya and Karn Sharma applied the brakes further in the middle overs but Tiwary ensured the strike was rotated well. After stitching an 80-run stand for the third wicket, Tiwary happily played an able ally to Dhoni, who swiftly changed gears in the last couple of overs to take RPS past 150. Dhoni hit five sixes in his blistering knock of 40 off 26 balls, four of which came in the last two overs. While scoring 26 off the last nine balls he faced, Dhoni gave an impression of seamlessly assuming Stokes’s role in the batting line-up.

Where Mumbai Indians drove the nail deep?

RPS didn’t just have a stigma in the powerplay overs but also during the middle overs in this season. With the second-worst balls per boundary ratio (8.48) in overs 7-15, Mumbai Indians recognised their opponents’ weakness well by employing the spin choke on a wicket which seemed two-paced.

Karn and Krunal conceded runs at a combined rate of 6.5 runs an over, giving away only three boundaries and two sixes. Mumbai seemed set to restrict Pune well under 150 at that stage but for Dhoni’s blitzkrieg in the end overs that assured RPS of a 150-plus score.

When and where did the table-toppers lose the plot?

The home side got off to a blazing start, powered by Parthiv Patel and raced off to 41 for 1 in just five overs’ time. However, a young spinner in Sundar came to the fore when he removed both Rohit Sharma and Ambati Rayudu in an over, breaking their back in the run-chase. Sundar was lucky to get rid of the Mumbai Indians skipper when he was wrongly adjudged LBW despite there being a big inside edge. A couple of balls later, Rayudu fell to a brilliant catch at short mid-wicket, changing the scenario to 42 for 3 in no time.

The death blow, or at least at that stage, came through in the form of Kieron Pollard’s wicket when he callously flicked it straight to Smith, getting out for just seven as Mumbai slipped to 51 for 4. Shardul Thakur chipped in with the all important wicket of Parthiv, and with two more wickets towards the end, he combined with Sundar’s efforts to floor MI. The chase went spiralling down from there as MI fell short by 20 runs in the end.

Brief Scores: Rising Pune Supergiant 162/4 in 20 overs (Manoj Tiwary 58, Ajinkya Rahane 56; Lasith Malinga 1-14) beat Mumbai Indians 142/9 in 20 overs (Parthiv Patel 52; Washington Sundar 3-16, Shardul Thakur 3-37) by 20 runs.

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