Mumbai Indians signed Nitish Rana at the 2015 IPL auction, but it took him until the final third of the 2016 season to get a look-in. He played in Mumbai's last four matches, and they clearly believed in him, sending him in at No. 4 twice and then, in their last game of the season, at No. 3. He scored 70 off 36 balls in that innings, against Gujarat Lions, and ensured he would be in Mumbai's starting line-up come 2017.
He began the season with a useful 34 against Rising Pune Supergiant, but he would be asked to do a whole lot more when he walked in to bat against Kolkata Knight Riders on Monday. Chasing 179, Mumbai were 65 for 1 when he walked in, and that quickly became 74 for 3 as Jos Buttler and Rohit Sharma fell to questionable lbw decisions.
With 106 required from 61 balls and their two best batsmen back in the dressing room, Mumbai had to turn things around quickly. Krunal Pandya began this process with successive fours off Ankit Rajpoot, before Rana, in the next over, slog-swept Kuldeep Yadav for four before lofting him effortlessly over extra-cover for six. Three tight overs from Kuldeep, Chris Woakes and Sunil Narine, however, left Mumbai needing 60 from the last four overs, and Kieron Pollard fell to the first ball of the 17th over.
It seemed to be slipping away from Mumbai, but Rana and Hardik Pandya weren't to be denied, going berserk with a bit of help from the dew. The two added 41 in 14 balls, with Rana racing from 24 to 50 in eight balls with the help of three fours and two sixes. He fell with 19 still left to get, but had by then done enough to turn the match Mumbai's way.
The wow moment
Fans are used to watching Jos Buttler walk across his stumps scooping the ball over his shoulder for six. When he did that against Chris Woakes in the fourth over of Mumbai's innings, the shot drew gasps of admiration but not astonishment. It's no longer an unusual sight. It isn't too often, though, that an uncapped and largely unknown batsman plays the same kind of shot and executes it just as well. At the start of the 19th over, with Mumbai needing 30 to win, Rana strolled across to the off side against Ankit Rajpoot, exposing all three stumps. The bowler aimed at the base of the stumps, and ended up bowling a low full-toss. Rana ramped it nonchalantly, to the right of the keeper, and timed it so well that the ball carried all the way for six.
Rana is known for his big hitting at domestic level, and ended the 2015-16 Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy as the tournament's top six-hitter, with 21 in nine matches.
Of Rana's 188 IPL runs so far, 125 (66.49%) have come through the leg side. In this innings, he scored 29 through the leg side and 21 through the off side.
The Knight Riders bowlers struggled with dew towards the end of Mumbai's chase, and let slip a number of full-tosses. Rana was severe on them, scoring 20 off the seven full-tosses he faced, hitting two fours and two sixes.
What they said
"We're known for this - we keep people on their toes. Very happy with this win. Here at Wankhede, we back our players to get the runs with the dew coming in and the flat pitch. We were hoping Rana and Hardik would finish it off and they did. It's important for any team to have young players come in like that and finish the job. I hope they repeat it."
Rohit Sharma on the sixth-wicket partnership that won the game