Smith and Tendulkar crush Rajasthan
Mumbai Indians 163 for 0 (Smith 87*, Tendulkar 58*) beat Rajasthan Royals (Watson 45, Kulkarni 3-18) by ten wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Mumbai Indians tried out their eighth different opening combination for the season and it clicked - Dwayne Smith and Sachin Tendulkar, with the help of a large dose of luck, put on the highest stand for the first wicket in the tournament to crush Rajasthan Royals in Jaipur.
At the halfway stage of this inconsequential match, the omens were good for Royals. Since Shane Watson's arrival, Royals' form has closely mirrored his batting form. Each time Watson has fired Royals have won, and every failure with the bat has led to defeat. He top scored with 45, lifting the Royals to 162. They have never lost a home game when they have scored more than 160.
All that was brushed aside, as Smith and Tendulkar set up only the fifth ten-wicket victory in IPL history. It looked like a completely one-sided encounter but the opening pair had plenty of close calls.
Smith was beaten plenty of times early on and his swipes repeatedly landed in non-man's land. There were several clear-cut chances as well - Ajit Chandila shelled a caught-and-bowled chance, Dishant Yagnik couldn't collect cleanly after Smith was beaten by a Brad Hogg wrong 'un, Siddharth Trivdedi caught him off a no-ball, and Tait couldn't even get his hands on a top-edge skier.
Tendulkar, too, wasn't at his elegant best; he was put down by Watson at midwicket, and then a paddle-sweep was top-edged over the keeper and slip, and wasn't exactly comfortable through much of the innings.
In between, there were some clean hits as well from the openers. Tendulkar got going with a front-foot cover drive off Tait, and Smith repeatedly played the short-arm pull behind square leg for boundaries. The match really began to slip away from Royals in the 11th over, when Smith clubbed Chandila for consecutive sixes to take Mumbai Indians close to their first century opening stand of the season.
A couple of overs later, Chandila let a ball through his hands to concede a boundary, leaving Rahul Dravid shaking his head. Besides the poor fielding, the bowling also gave away too many free runs - 15 wides and a no-ball sliced 10% from the target.
If it ended badly for Royals, it hadn't begun well either. Mumbai fast bowler Dhawal Kulkarni, playing his first match of the season, cut short what could be Dravid's final competitive innings. Kulkarni also added the scalp of Ajinkya Rahane, Royals' most prolific scorer this season, later in the Powerplay.
Once again it seemed Royals were looking to Watson for acceleration. He wasn't timing it as well as he would have liked, but the burden wasn't entirely on him as Stuart Binny chipped in with a free-swinging 30. The innings got a jumpstart when Binny caned Harbhajan Singh for 22 runs in the 10th over, slog-sweeping him over square leg for six, and also picking off three fours in the over. Watson joined the fun as he connected well on his third swipe at Smith, sending the ball for six over his favourite deep midwicket region.
Binny was then run-out through an athletic bit of footwork from Kieron Pollard in his follow-through, and a couple of overs later Watson miscued a heave off Pollard, leading to a loss of momentum. Owais Shah and Ashok Menaria, though, capitalised on some indisciplined bowling from Mumbai Indians to take Royals to what seemed a competitive total.
It didn't prove near enough as Mumbai Indians went into the playoffs with a extra shot of confidence. The questions for them will be about their combination after a couple of their experiments worked. Do they stick with the same openers or revert to Tendulkar-Gibbs? Also, does Kulkarni deserve another chance or should they go back to the experience of Munaf Patel.
Siddarth Ravindran is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo