(Cricinfo) The scenes at the Wankhede Stadium were scarcely believable as Mumbai Indians’ turnaround of a campaign that had begun so disastrously culminated in the most fairy-tale of finishes. As Aditya Tare swung his first ball – James Faulkner’s leg-stump full toss – over long leg to give Mumbai the boundary they needed to claw into the playoffs, Rahul Dravid rose from the dugout and flung his Rajasthan Royals cap to the ground as the team he was mentoring completed the most spectacular of meltdowns to lose an un-loseable game.
The shambles that caused Dravid to lose his temper would have broken less-composed men much sooner. Despite the mad-scientist experiments in their last few matches, Royals had gone into this game with a hand full of aces. Mumbai Indians, having decided to chase, needed to achieve whatever target they were set in 14.3 overs to get ahead on net run rate. Royals set them 190.
Corey Anderson, whom Mumbai picked in place of fast bowler Marchant de Lange, played the attack-shredding innings he had been bought to play but had failed to produce so far in the tournament. However, when Mumbai needed nine off three deliveries to win in 14.3 overs and qualify for the playoffs, Anderson could manage only a single off Faulkner’s first to move to 95 off 44 balls and take his place at the non-striker’s end.
Faulkner had eight runs to defend off two balls, but that equation lurched heavily in favour of Mumbai when he delivered a leg-stump full toss that Ambati Rayudu smacked over the long-leg boundary. Rayudu then mis-timed what should have been the decisive ball of the match into the covers and would have been run out had Shane Watson hit at the bowler’s end. But the throw was inaccurate and Rayudu was eventually run out attempting the overthrow that would have given Mumbai all they needed.
That moment in the field capped a horrendous match for the Royals captain. Watson’s timing had been incredibly poor during his struggle for 8 off 18 balls after opening the innings, and then he conceded 33 off two wicketless overs.
As Mumbai began building the momentum of a runaway train, Watson looked listless and frazzled, and at times Brad Hodge was seen marshalling fielders to their positions.
As Rayudu sank to his knees after his dismissal, gutted because he thought Mumbai had fallen so agonisingly short, chaos broke out around him. Calculators went to work off the field, the batsmen and fielders crowded the umpires for clarification, and play halted for several minutes. Some Royals players had begun to celebrate – 14.3 overs had been bowled and the scores were only tied, Mumbai had not won – but substitutes ran out with the message that it was not done yet. If Mumbai hit a boundary off the next ball, they would make it. And then Faulkner bowled an staggeringly loose full toss, Tare hit it for six, got in Watson’s face, tugged his jersey over his head and celebrated like a footballer. Beyond the boundary, Dravid threw down his cap.
The hero on the night was the man striding off the field, chest puffed, and wearing a smile as broad as his shoulders. Anderson had played only because Mumbai were in desperate need of men who could hit a long ball. His team-mates – Lendl Simmons, Michael Hussey, Kieron Pollard and Rohit Sharma – came out swinging but soon ran out of steam. Anderson’s guns never stopped firing.
Coming in at 19 for 1, he hammered his first ball – from Watson – to the cover boundary and pulled his second into the crowd beyond deep midwicket. Anderson then watched Kevon Cooper york Hussey and pocket Pollard with a slower ball. Cooper conceded only four runs in the seventh over, leaving Mumbai needing 115 off 45 balls to qualify. They scored more than 14 in all but two of the remaining overs, and never less than 11.
Anderson slog-swept Tambe’s legbreaks and googlies to and over the deep-midwicket boundary and repeatedly pummeled the seamers between long on and long off. Only 11 of his 95 runs came behind the wicket. In Rayudu, Anderson found an equally aggressive partner and they put on 81 in 5.1 overs. When Mumbai needed 51 off 21, Rayudu hit three fours and Anderson a fourth in a Watson over to turn the game. Cooper, Tambe and Faulkner were entrusted with the remaining overs to delay Mumbai beyond 14.3, but a battered Royals outfit had no self-belief. Mumbai had it all.
The despair Royals felt at the end of the night had rendered the achievements of their two youngest batsmen all but forgotten. Having watched their captain Watson flounder on a pitch that made the ball grip, Sanju Samson and Karun Nair batted fluently, repairing the innings to 59 for 1 after 10 overs before launching an unexpected salvo.
Rohit Sharma, the Mumbai captain, used five bowlers between overs 11 and 15 and Samson and Nair took more than 10 runs of everyone, scoring 75 runs in this period. They carved over the off side and slog-swept over the leg, they played reverse and orthodox shots and they timed everything sweetly. Samson brought up his 50 off 36 balls and Nair got his in 26; the century stand took only 9.2 overs.
After they fell in the space of four balls in the 15th and 16th over, Royals finally abandoned their inexplicable tactic of preserving Hodge and Faulkner for later. The Australians finished strongly, and had Royals used them better the previous games, they might have already had their playoff spot before tonight. But they had given Mumbai an opening, and fell to pieces as Anderson broke the door down.