Mumbai Indians 187 for 5 (Rayudu 53*, Simmons 38, Kulkarni 2-26) beat Rajasthan Royals 179 for 7 (Samson 76, McClenaghan 3-31) by eight runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
It came down, in the end, to one stat: Mumbai Indians scored 61 in their last four overs. Their innings till that point had never looked like getting out of third gear, but a late blitz from Ambati Rayudu and Kieron Pollard left Rajasthan Royals chasing 188.
At various points, particularly when Sanju Samson was at the crease, Royals looked in control of the chase. But Mumbai's bowlers, unlike Royals', found their lengths at the death. Together, Mitchell McClenaghan and Lasith Malinga conceded only 14 runs in the 18th and 19th overs, and picked up three wickets. It left Royals 20 to get from the final over, and even though Vinay Kumar made things interesting with a couple of high full-tosses - one of which was a no-ball that produced both a catch in the deep and a run-out - it was too much of a hurdle to cross. Having made a storming start to the season, Royals went winless for the fifth match in a row.
It all came down to that one stat: 61 runs in four overs. In the early part of the season - when Royals won five out of five - Chris Morris and James Faulkner invariably bowled the last four overs. Neither was playing this game; instead, Juan Theron, Shane Watson and Tim Southee sent down a tasty assortment of length balls, short balls and full-tosses that Rayudu and Pollard gobbled up for six fours and three sixes.
Royals' chase got off to a frenetic start. An edgy Ajinkya Rahane played three awful swipes, of which one went to the boundary off the inside-edge, one hit the top edge and fell to the floor via a terrible drop from J Suchith, and the other fell safely into Rayudu's palms after another miscue. Watson timed and muscled his way to 28 before he was bowled trying to cut a skiddy quicker one from Suchith.
The required rate was always daunting but Samson - restored to his No.3 slot after moving from opening to batting in the lower middle order - kept Royals in the hunt with his effortless power and inventiveness. He played cat-and-mouse with Harbhajan Singh, moving around his crease, forcing him to bowl quicker, and using that pace to pick up two deftly dabbed fours through the fine third man region. He jumped in the air and pivoted violently through the hips to muscle a slower bouncer from Vinay into the gap between deep midwicket and long-on. He pulled Malinga over the leg-side boundary and lofted McClenaghan sweetly over long-off, but when he tried to repeat the stroke and failed to get the required elevation, he left Royals 27 to get from 14 balls.
That provoked the turnaround. Karun Nair fell next ball, slashing outside off and nicking McClenaghan to the keeper. Deepak Hooda flicked Malinga in the air, into the hands of deep midwicket. In four balls, Royals had lost their three young and exciting domestic talents, and with it the match.
For the first 16 overs of Mumbai's innings, it had seemed as if they would set a target of 165 at the most. Their openers made a bright start on a true pitch, but Parthiv Patel - typically - failed to convert a breezy start, and Unmukt Chand struggled his way to 13 off 14. Still, with Lendl Simmons scoring a 31-ball 38 at the top, Mumbai were going along at over eight an over for the first ten. It was decent going, but their batsmen kept getting out just when they were getting in.
Rohit Sharma provided another example of that, moving smoothly to 27 from 20 - with a couple of authoritative pulls in the mix - before picking out short fine leg off Dhawal Kulkarni. When he fell, Mumbai were 120 for 4 in the 15th over, and a tight 16th from Ankit Sharma, who mixed his pace well while not deriving too much turn, left them 126 for 4 after 16.
That was when Royals' new-look death bowling floundered, and in Rayudu and Pollard Mumbai had just the right pair at the crease to take heavy toll. Rayudu hadn't had the greatest of starts to his season, and hadn't even played all of Mumbai's matches, but he looked in top form here, striking the ball cleanly and picking up four fours and three sixes. One of them, not much more than a pick-up shot off Theron, soared high over wide long-on and landed in the second tier.