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Pune punch leaves Mumbai bloodied in IPL opener

Wisden India logo Wisden India 10-04-2016

When the team for the Rising Pune Supergiants was formed, it was widely considered that they were light on bowling. The pace department in particular, was reckoned to be weak as it lacked a tearaway speedster and depended heavily on Indians. The only star bowler in the line-up seemed to be R Ashwin.

However, it required only 20 overs in their first Indian Premier League match to change that perception. Pune’s bowlers combined to wreak havoc on Mumbai Indians at the Wankhede stadium, restricting the defending champions to just 121 for 8. All this, with R Ashwin bowling only one over and that in the 16th over of the innings.

Ishant Sharma and Mitchell Marsh got two wickets each while RP Singh, Rajat Bhatia, R Ashwin and M Ashwin bagged one apiece. Pune also created an IPL record with four bowlers striking with their first ball.

Pune made light work of the chase and completed a perfect IPL debut with a nine-wicket win in 14.4 overs thanks to a typically elegant and unbeaten 42-ball 66 from Ajinkya Rahane.

It was a largely forgettable game for Mumbai as little went their way, apart from the toss. Rohit Sharma made a debatable decision to bat first on a ground generally known to be tough to defend on. Even in the recently concluded World Twenty20, the chasing team won three of the four matches in Mumbai, the only exception being Afghanistan against South Africa.

The tone was set as early as the first ball of the second over when Ishant got through Rohit’s defence to trap him leg before. Ishant did the same to Lendl Simmons in his next over, uprooting the stumps with a massive inswinger.

What followed was a procession. Marsh capitalised on Ishant’s breakthroughs with a double-wicket first over that accounted for Hardik Pandya and Jos Buttler. Pandya had got an interesting promotion to No. 3 but it backfired when he top-edged Marsh’s first ball to Dhoni while Buttler bagged a duck on IPL debut when he edged to slip.

Marsh could have had another when he beat Kieron Pollard with a full toss that hit the pad plumb in front, but for some reason, umpire CK Nandan’s finger never rose. The reprieve wouldn’t cost much though, as Rajat Bhatia had Pollard leg before in the very next over, leaving Mumbai reeling at 40 for 5 in eight overs. That soon became 51 for 6 when Shreyas Gopal lofted M Ashwin, the legspinner making his IPL debut, to long-off.

Recognising that the only challenge, and option, for Mumbai was to bat out 20 overs, Bhatia (4-1-10-1) and M Ashwin (4-0-16-1) rushed through some quick overs in the middle. Ambati Rayudu played a decent hand and stretched Mumbai’s innings before Harbhajan Singh threw his bat around towards the end. That Mumbai even got past 100 was due to Harbhajan’s unbeaten 30-ball 45.

The only way Mumbai could have clawed their way back in the match was through early wickets but they never came as Rahane and Faf du Plessis made light work of the chase.

Rahane was solid yet classy in strokeplay and found the boundary regularly with some typically crisp shots while du Plessis too kept the score moving with some fancy batting. It didn’t help that Mitchell McClenaghan missed a straightforward chance to run du Plessis out when he was on 14.

Du Plessis celebrated the let-off by smashing Jasprit Bumrah for two consecutive sixes, and once the openers had plundered 57 runs from the Power Play over, the result was only a matter of time.

Harbhajan got through an attempted sweep by du Plessis in the 10th over but Rahane carried on, bringing up his half-century off 32 balls pulling Shreyas to the deep midwicket fence. Kevin Pietersen too enjoyed some batting practice and hit Harbhajan for a couple of sixes.

Fittingly, Pune completed the formalities with Rahane hitting Pandya for two sixes off the first three balls of the 15th over.

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