MUMBAI: Just before Lucknow Super Giants (LSG) skipper KL Rahul walked out to bat against Mumbai Indians (MI) for Game 26 of the IPL at the Brabourne Stadium here on Easter Saturday, the batsman’s 100th IPL game, the broadcasters showed short highlights of the hundred Rahul had scored at the Wankhede Stadium for Kings XI Punjab, a ground located less than a mile away from the CCI against the same opponents in 2019.
It was a marriage of class and carnage.
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The Indian white-ball vice-captain was in the mood again on a balmy afternoon and belted probably a better hundred than the one he had scored three years ago as LSG, after being put into bat, ended with 199 for 4, as a clueless Mumbai Indians attack, barring the peerless Jasprit Bumrah, were haemorrhaging runs by the buckets.
The total proved 18 runs too many for the hosts as MI lost their sixth game on the trot to equal RCB’s horror start in 2019.
Back to Rahul. His unbeaten 103 (60balls, 9×4, 5×6) was celebrated by the batsman with what has now become a trademark shutting of the ears and closed eyes. It was a meditative pose. The batsman himself was in the zone on a belter of a pitch for the entire length of his innings as every ball seemed to have an appointment with the middle of his SG willow. Before Saturday, Rahul averaged 66.1 in 14 matches against MI.
Left-arm-seamer Jaydev Unadkat salvaged things somewhat by bowling a magnificent last over where he nailed the wide yorkers.
The red soil pitches in Mumbai with decent covering of grass suit his game as the ball comes on to the bat and the bounce is true.
Be it square driving or cutting the pacers, or slog sweeping spinners Fabian Allen (on debut today) and Murugan Ashwin, Rahul seemed like he was conducting a clinic on how to construct a T20 innings. He was helped by decent cameos from Quinton de Kock, Manish Pandey and the ever improving Deepak Hooda. The lack of inhibition in his game has been the refreshing aspect of his play this season.
A return to winning ways for @LucknowIPL! 👏 👏The @klrahul11-led unit beat #MI by 18 runs and register their 4th w… https://t.co/BvXK0shLzC
— IndianPremierLeague (@IPL) 1650118385000
MI have had a 20-run over in every bowling innings and today it was Englishman Tymal Mills’ turn to get special treatment as his third over and the 19th of the innings went for 22.
For a dispirited MI to have a realistic chance of chasing 200, they needed a special effort from their skipper Rohit Sharma. The impressive Avesh Khan (3-30) though had other ideas and he had Sharma caught behind for six by hitting the hard length. The only period where MI looked to be in the chase was during the 13 balls that South African youngster Dewald Brevis was at the crease. He smashed Dushmantha Chameera into the second tier of the pavilion and then produced an array of on the rise boundaries that lit up the CCI even before the lights came on.
With the sea of blue chanting his name full-throated from the stands as if he was Sachin Tendulkar, it was about keeping the adrenaline in check. For 18-year-olds though, it is as difficult as not liking fast cars. An Avesh full toss was drilled into the hands of Hooda at cover. Ishan Kishan fell in the next over as he inside-edged Stoinis onto the stumps for a laboured 13.
With the asking rate mounting, it was upto Suryakumar Yadav and Tilak Varma to play rescuers. They tried hard during their 64-run run alliance for the fourth wicket, but LSG had too much depth and class with the ball that never allowed MI to break free.
Kieron Pollard tried to play the miracle worker like he did at the Wankhede in 2019 but could not. MI need to address some hard truths about the bowling, the use of Bumrah as first change, the form of Ishan Kishan and whether Rohit, after being appointed India captain, still has the mental freshness to captain in franchise cricket.