Mumbai survive special Yusuf ton
The second-fastest Twenty20 hundred, a 37-ball assault from Yusuf Pathan, as delicate as it was brutal, wasn't enough on a day in which precious little was contributed by the other Rajasthan Royals players. Despite Mumbai Indians piling on their biggest score in the IPL, it required special death bowling from Zaheer Khan and Lasith Malinga to deny Rajasthan 19 runs in the last two overs.
Yusuf's onslaught came after Mumbai's youngsters Ambati Rayudu, considered unlucky to have not played for India yet, and Saurabh Tiwary powered the home side to what seemed a massive total, but it turned out to be one that just about dodged the Yusuf-shaped bullet.
The it's-good-to-be-back ad campaign of the IPL could well have been meant exclusively for Yusuf. In his first innings back in India, he shook a dying match up and gave Mumbai a right scare. The Yusuf show began when Rajasthan needed 143 off 57. He scored 54 off the next 11 balls he faced, 26 other deliveries got him 46, and when he finally got out he left Rajasthan 40 to get off 17 deliveries.
Of the nine fours and eight sixes he hit in a frenetic period of play, three shots stood out - and they were not sixes. The length deliveries and full tosses were all murdered, but in the 13th over - he was 57 off 22 by then - Ryan McLaren bowled a decent enough yorker to him. Yusuf opened the face late, beautifully late, and guided it for four. The next ball was not more than a couple of inches short of being a yorker, but on the stumps, and he managed to get under it, and still hit it to long-off for four. The third yorker of the over was neither wide nor straight, in between, and he leaned back to make space and steered it even later than the one before. More brutal hits preceded a moment of inspiration for Mumbai.
Arguably the best fielder in India, R Satish, returning from ICL, followed up his direct-hit run-out and a terrific caught-and-bowled with Yusuf's dismissal. He bowled full and straight to Paras Dogra, the other batsman, then dived in his follow through to field the ball, and reverse-flicked to catch a backing-up Yusuf short.
Dogra, who had scored 18 off 20 in the 107-run stand until then, opened up in the same over, and hit two fours and two sixes to bring down the target to 19 off 12.
Zaheer and Malinga, though, with Harbhajan Singh injured and not available to bowl, performed like champs. Eleven near-yorkers from the duo in the last two overs meant even the two wides they bowled were not enough for Rajasthan.
It was fitting for Mumbai that Indian cricketers helped them come back at crucial times: they had become the first team in the three seasons of IPL to play with only three overseas players. Kapil Dev and friends could afford a wee smile too. Rayudu, Sathish and Ali Murtaza - who took a wicket with his first ball - are all returning from the ICL.
Rayudu and Tiwary added 110 runs in 63 balls to help Mumbai Indians recover from a triple-strike in the first third of the innings. Shane Warne didn't have to wait too long to find out if Tendulkar "will open and face [Shaun] Tait", with Tendulkar walking out to open with Sanath Jayasuriya.
Jayasuriya took apart Dimitri Mascarenhas, and Tendulkar did the honours for Tait, taking 10 runs from the four balls that Tait bowled to him. Mascarenhas hit back with two wickets in one over, and at 70 for 3 in 6.3 overs, the onus was on the Indian batsmen.
Rayudu immediately showed glimpses of what made observers talk of him as a potential international. He wristily flicked the first ball he faced for four, lest anybody forget he's from Hyderabad.
It was just as well that Tendulkar didn't survive long enough to give the viewers the much-awaited contest against Warne: the latter was off colour, going for 29 runs in three overs. There was no turn for Warne, and he bowled too many half-volleys. Tiwary took full toll, and hit him down the ground for two fours and a six. By the time Warne took himself off, Mumbai had reached 121 in 12 overs. Tiwary had reached 26, and Rayudu 23, off 17 balls each.
Part-time offbreaks from Abhishek Jhunjhunwala and Yusuf went for full-time hitting. Rayudu hit three successive Jhunjhunwala deliveries for a huge six and fours either side of long-on. When he next smacked a six off Yusuf, he had reached 53 off just 30 deliveries, and Mumbai had rocketed to 166 in 16.3.
Tiwary reached his fifty by hitting Amit Uniyal, whose change-up delivery was the quicker one, to the long-on boundary. In fact it was all clean hitting down the ground from the two: out of the 108 they scored between them, only 16 came behind square.
Rayudu and Tiwary didn't see the innings to the close, but Harbhajan Singh and Ryan McLaren contributed to Tait's horror day, taking 22 off his last two overs. Each one of those runs mattered in the end.
Sidharth Monga is a staff writer at Cricinfo