Royals v Mumbai Indians, IPL 2014, Ahmedabad May 19, 2014

Royals fall behind in top-two race

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Hattangadi: Rajasthan were oversmart

Mumbai Indians 178 for 3 (Simmons 62, Hussey 56) beat Rajasthan Royals 153 for 8 (Nair 48, Harbhajan 2-13, Gopal 2-25) by 25 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Faced with a must-win situation on a dry pitch, Michael Hussey and Lendl Simmons produced a century stand for the first wicket - Mumbai Indians' best in 40 games - that helped them prevail over third-placed Rajasthan Royals in Ahmedabad. Both batsmen scored half-centuries before Rohit Sharma used the platform as a springboard for a 19-ball 40 that lifted his team to 178. Their three spinners then shared two wickets each to give Mumbai Indians a comfortable win that took them level with Sunrisers Hyderabad on points.

However, one has to question the number of changes made by Royals ahead of an important match, given they were still not assured of a place in the playoffs. Kane Richardson, the Royals seamer, had even mentioned on the eve of the match that they were in no mood for experimentation, but there were four changes when Shane Watson came for the toss. They swapped Ajinkya Rahane, easily their best batsman for such conditions, for Unmukt Chand, who hadn't played a game this season, while also benching their best bowler, Pravin Tambe.

With this loss, they have not only kept Mumbai Indians' dreams alive, but also got stuck on seven wins from 12 games with two difficult away matches to go - against Kings XI Punjab and Mumbai Indians.

Unlike Royals, Mumbai Indians' changes didn't need an explanation. Corey Anderson had come to the end of the long rope he had got from the management, CM Gautam hadn't set the scene on fire with his batting and Lasith Malinga had left for England to join his national team. In came, Hussey, Krishmar Santokie and the young Karnataka allrounder Shreyas Gopal, all of whom played their parts.

Hussey had been dropped after only 30 runs in his first four matches for Mumbai Indians but on a slow pitch in Ahmedabad, he showed the quality that the team had been missing at the top of the order. He remained busy in the first half of the innings, manoeuvring the ball with ease, while his partner, Simmons, mainly looked for the big shots. At the end of five overs, Mumbai Indians were on 34, and more importantly, without the loss of any wicket, nine more than their previous best opening stand this season.

Simmons wasn't comfortable with the deliveries that stopped on him but used powerful cuts and lofted shots whenever offered with the right length. He had six boundaries to Hussey's one as the partnership reached 50 in the seventh over.

Hussey, the more fluent of the two, just got better with the day. He crisply timed a length ball from Stuart Binny through covers for his second boundary before deftly punching a slower delivery from Rajat Bhatia through point for his third.

Off the first ball of the 11th over, he hammered a slower bouncer from James Faulkner over deep midwicket. He smashed another six in the next over, before nudging the next ball for a single to reach his half-century off 32 balls, easily beating Simmons to the landmark.

Both batsmen were dismissed in the 15th over, allowing Rohit just enough time to cut loose. Even though Kieron Pollard struggled for timing with the ball reversing, Rohit clobbered three sixes and a four in the last two overs that cost Royals 29 runs.

Mumbai Indians introduced spin early in the chase and Pragyan Ojha, who had just one wicket this season till then, struck twice in his first two overs to remove Chand and Watson. Karun Nair played a free-flowing innings of 48 from 24 balls, but with batsmen offering catches at the other end, the Royals innings came off tracks early. Brad Hodge and James Faulkner, coming in at Nos 8 and 9, landed some parting blows but the match had long slipped out of Royals' hands.

Devashish Fuloria is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo