IPL 8: Elegance trumped flamboyance as Rajasthan Royals beat Mumbai IndiansApril 15, 2015 11:26
More often than not, T20 is about power hitting. It's about using sheer brute force to clear the ropes. But on Tuesday night at the Sardar Patel Stadium, Ahmedabad, Steven Smith and Ajinkya Rahane put on an exhibition of classical strokeplay and proved that clever and proper cricketing strokes can also win you matches in the shortest format of the game.
Earlier in the day, two of the most dangerous power hitters, Kieron Pollard and Corey Anderson had launched a brutal attack on the RR bowlers and pulled Mumbai Indians out of inertia to help them post a competitive total of 164. It was again the failure of the top order that had MI in trouble as they were reduced to 45/3. But then, Pollard and Anderson got together and just hammered the RR bowlers all over the park. It was power hitting at its best as the duo added 104 from 9.1 overs and almost doubled their score in the last five overs as they hit 81 runs compared to 83 in the first 15.
Rajasthan Royals captain Steven Smith raises his bat after scoring a fifty. Sportzpics
Pollard brought back memories of the 2013 IPL final against CSK (60 off 32 balls) and hit 70 off just 34 balls, while Anderson scored 50 off 38, though he received a lifeline as he was caught off a no ball from Dhawal Kulkarni.
The entire innings was about the raw power of Pollard and Anderson as they hit eight sixes among them.
Chasing the target, RR lost Sanju Samson (17) early. Rahane and Smith then steadied the ship and even though the required run rate hovered around 8 and 9, the pair took minimum risks and played calculated cricket. They hit an odd four every over and then dealt in singles and twos. There were 24 singles, 10 twos and five fours in their partnership of 64 from 8.4 overs. Both the batsmen relied on placement and finding the gaps.
After the departure of Rahane, Hooda soon followed after a hitting couple of sixes and then the required run rate shot to 10.40 runs per over with 52 to get from 5 overs. Malinga had two overs left which made the task look more arduous.
But Smith still kept his calm and took Malinga on in the 17th over. He hit him for three fours with one coming off an outside edge. The most impressive part was the use of the crease against the Sri Lankan pacer. He used the depth of the crease to good effect and just placed the very full deliveries to perfection. The two fours he hit off the first two balls were of the highest quality. He whipped the first one from outside off over mid-wicket and then brought up his maiden IPL fifty by guiding a near yorker through backward point.
He then flicked one nonchalantly over mid-wicket for a six off Pawan Suyal in the next over before following up with two glorious extra cover drives off Malinga to make it game, set and match for RR. Smith's temperament stood out. When the required rate was over 10, there was no drama, no nerves. He was calm and composed.
He didn't go for any wild swings, played proper cricketing strokes against one of the best death bowlers and won the match with ease, remaining unbeaten on 79 off 53 balls. He paced his innings to perfection. The highlight of the innings was the way he handled Malinga - 36 runs off 19 balls at a strike rate of 189.47.