Nerveless Rohit steers tight chase
Mumbai Indians have done a few things different this year. They enjoyed their best start ever in the IPL with six wins in their first seven matches - a departure from their reputation for being slow starters. They also mostly got there with a misfiring captain.
Before Monday, Rohit Sharma had made two scores of note, and only one of them had resulted in a win for his team. Against Royal Challengers Bangalore, Rohit walked out at the end of a big second-wicket stand between Jos Buttler and Nitish Rana. Mumbai Indians were 62 for 2 after eight overs, chasing 163 on a slowish Wankhede surface.
A wristy whip through midwicket against Shane Watson allowed him to settle down. He lost Rana soon after, while Kieron Pollard picked out deep midwicket. And with Krunal Pandya retiring hurt due to an injury picked up earlier in the field, the onus fell on Rohit as the chase got trickier.
Rohit then expertly paced his innings, finding the boundary at timely intervals to ensure Mumbai always stayed afloat. Deftly driven fours off back-to-back balls to end the 15th over made sure the required rate didn't get out of hand. When he wasn't finding the boundary, Rohit milked singles to keep the score ticking. He raised his fifty off 34 balls, before carving a fuller ball from Watson through mid-off to finish the game off.
The wow moment
When S Aravind came on to bowl the 19th over, Mumbai still needed 18 off 12 balls. Aravind bowled two slower balls upfront in the over that were pinched for singles. But when he opted for pace-off for a third straight delivery, it backfired. Steaming in from around the wicket, Aravind landed a length ball outside off. Rohit, having anticipated it well in advance, walked across, before getting down on one knee and depositing him over square leg with a slog sweep. The shot had Rohit's signature all over it, laced with grace and silken timing. It brought the equation down to just over a run a ball, and from there, it was Mumbai's game to lose.
- Rohit's strike rate of 151.35 was his best in all knocks this IPL season.
- This was the 15th instance of Rohit staying not out in a successful chase - the joint-third most in the IPL.
- Rohit struck at 187. 5 against pace in today's innings. In contrast, he managed only 11 off 13 balls against spinners, striking at 84.6.
What they said
"Personally, it felt good to spend time in the middle. I picked my areas and backed myself to hit in those areas. You get value for your shots at Wankhede and I just wanted to find the gaps."
Akshay Gopalakrishnan is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo