Ruthless Mumbai surge to sixth win
Mumbai Indians 159 for 5 (Rayudu 51, Tendulkar 51) beat Kings XI Punjab 136 for 8 (Marsh 61, Munaf 2-18, Malinga 2-19)
Live scorecard and ball-by-ball details
If Sachin Tendulkar doesn't get you, Ambati Rayudu will. If Lasith Malinga doesn't get you, Harbhajan Singh will. Unfortunately for Kings XI Punjab, all four men were on top of their game today, and the rest of the Mumbai Indians XI was ruthlessly efficient. Tendulkar played within himself, Rayudu launched the occasional sortie and the middle order kept up the momentum to lift Mumbai to 159. It was a gettable target on this pitch, but not against this attack.
Harbhajan and Malinga cracked open the game in their opening spells. Harbhajan nailed Adam Gilchrist on the sweep in the opening over, before Malinga put Paul Valthaty in his place with an over of pace-bowling brilliance. He began with a full ball that was through Valthaty in a blink. The second was a swerving full toss at 144.5 kph that Valthaty barely managed to get bat to. The third was faster, and Valthaty nervously glanced to fine-leg, but he was back on strike for the last two. Malinga let him have two short balls; Valthaty did not pick the first one, and missed a feeble attempt at a pull off the second. Valthaty, clearly outclassed, was stunned into his shell and Punjab never recovered.
Tendulkar smelled blood, and went for all-out attack. Malinga bowled with two slips, while Harbhajan trotted in with a slip and a silly point. Valthaty continued to struggle, but Shaun Marsh managed to sneak a couple of boundaries off Malinga. Abu Nechim kept the pressure on Valthaty, who was so late on a pull in the fifth over that he ended up playing it uppishly to cover. Cover is not where a pull shot should go, neither is it the place for Munaf Patel to field: he grassed the catch, tumbling forward. Unfortunately for Punjab, that was the only fielding error from Mumbai.
After dawdling to 8 off his first 24 balls, Valthaty eventually found respite against the back-up bowlers. He carted T Suman and Andrew Symonds for sixes, but holed out soon after. Marsh was in his groove by then, charming a Munaf half-volley for four and clattering a half-tracker from Nechim to midwicket, but he needed someone to hold up the other end.
Mumbai ensured that did not happen: David Hussey was held spectacularly at long-on by Rohit Sharma, who hurtled forward and dived full-length. Dinesh Karthik was trapped in front by Kieron Pollard, and Abhishek Nayar allowed the entry 'c Symonds b Harbhajan' to enter the scorecard. Malinga tied up the loose ends in his second spell.
Earlier, Mumbai were efficient rather than excellent with the bat, as Punjab's spinners held them back in an attritional first half. Punjab were clearly looking to capitalise on Tendulkar's weakness against left-arm spin, when they opened the attack with Bhargav Bhatt. Bipul Sharma took over for the third over, and struck with his unusual trajectory from well wide of the crease. Davy Jacobs was lazy leaning out to one of those deliveries, and turned his wrists too early as the ball slipped through to hit the stumps. The early dismissal forced Mumbai to rebuild cautiously, and the left-arm gambit had paid off though Tendulkar hadn't fallen for it.
Rayudu attempted to break free with a couple of against-the-spin heaves, while Tendulkar skipped inside the line to sweep Bhatt over deep square leg, but Mumbai showed their first real sign of intent only in the 12th over of the innings. As always, Praveen Kumar was cannon fodder once the shine disappeared from the ball, and Rayudu clubbed him for two fours and a six off consecutive balls. Punjab did not help their own cause, dropping Rayudu twice in two balls. The second a comical error in judgement from Ryan Harris at long-off, that allowed Rayudu reach his half-century.
Rayudu and Tendulkar fell soon after getting to their half-centuries, but Pollard ensured there was no let-up, smashing two sixes and in the process increasing his tournament tally by a factor of five. His closing surge, aided by Rohit, took Mumbai to a score that Punjab would have fancied chasing, but Malinga and Co. had other plans.
Nitin Sundar is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo