Mumbai Indians have been the most successful team in the IPL so far, winning four games on the bounce after narrowly losing their first to Pune. Still, the cries of displeasure at their opening combination have been loud. Rohit Sharma's coming in - and subsequent failure - at No. 3 has irked Mumbai's fans throughout; they would have been especially irritated when Nitish Rana came in at No. 3 today. Despite a match-winning fifty from the same position earlier in the tournament.
Rana has been Mumbai's most confident batsman so far and he showed it off the third ball he faced, walking at Praveen Kumar to lift one over short fine leg. He powered a drive past the bowler next over too. Then, like it does for most batsmen in a purple patch, Rana's fortune turned up for him. He skied a pull shot off the next ball, and Jason Roy put down a regulation catch at midwicket. Rana was on 9 at that point. He made full use.
That Jos Buttler played a patient innings at the other end was down to Rana's milking of Gujarat Lions' bowling. Picking up on the thinness of their bowling options, Rana was happy to rotate the strike through the middle. He made 17 runs in the midwicket area, and 14 behind square on the off - most of these were dabs and pushes. Sprinkled in the middle were two fours and two sixes. By the time he reached his fifty, Mumbai were on par with the required rate. He fell shortly after, but what Mumbai lacked at the top of the order, and what would supposedly be provided by Rohit, was taken care of by Rana, who picked up the Man-of-the-Match award as well as the Orange Cap by the end of the match.
The wow moment
Basil Thampi had nearly had Rana caught in his first over. He was also the only bowler who had made Rana uncomfortable, using both pace and variation to trouble him in that same over. Rana responded with some disdain the next time he faced him. In the penultimate over of the Powerplay, Thampi threw one wide for Rana to chase. Rana was willing go after it and was quickly leaning in after picking the length. However, it turned out to be a slower ball. He was already in position and had the option of letting it go. He chose to wait, instead, and watched it closely as he threw his arms at it to execute the perfect lofted drive over extra-cover.
The stats that matter
Rana's best strike rate on the day was against Ravindra Jadeja, but he only hit him for one four. He played no dot balls against the left-arm spinner.
Mumbai haven't lost when Rana has got past 40 this season
All three of Rana's IPL fifties have come at No. 3
What they said
"Young Nitish Rana is just the kind of player you nurture. Will be really interested in seeing how he goes in different conditions."
Harsha Bhogle, on Twitter
"This boy Nitesh Rana is a very good player. Fantastic 50."
Michael Clarke, on Twitter