Steve Smith celebrated his return at the helm with a captain’s innings that powered Rajasthan Royals to a five-wicket victory over a formidable Mumbai Indians in the Indian Premier League at the Sawai Mansingh stadium in Jaipur on Saturday.
Chasing a target of 162, Royals won the game with five balls to spare as the former Australia captain anchored the innings with an unbeaten 59 off 48.
Teenager Riyan Parag (43 off 29 balls) also showed good temperament as he matched his skipper stroke for stroke during their 70-run stand in 9.4 overs that paved the way for a comfortable victory.
Smith, who replaced Ajinkya Rahane before the start of the match, hit five boundaries and a six. This is Rajasthan’s third win in nine games and they are now placed seventh in the league table above bottom-placed Royal Challengers Bangalore even though playoff qualification looks a long shot as of now.
Rajasthan Royals, who were in a must-win situation, raced to 39 in 3.3 overs but Rahane (12 off 12 balls) departed as Suryakumar Yadav took a diving catch at covers off leg-spinner Rahul Chahar, who was the pick of the bowlers with figures of 3/29.
Sanju Samson got his team off to a fine start with a whirlwind 35 off 19 balls that set the pace and helped Smith to anchor the innings.
Parag’s composure also helped even though Chahar and the seasoned Jasprit Bumrah (1/21 in 4 overs) bowled well at the back end of the innings.
Earlier, Quinton de Kock continued his impressive run with another solid half-century as Mumbai Indians put up a decent 161/5 while batting first. De Kock smashed 65 off 47 balls with six fours and two sixes, adding 97 runs off 68 balls for the second wicket with Suryakumar Yadav (34 off 33 balls).
Reinstated as skipper in place of Rahane, Smith introduced leg-spinner Shreyas Gopal (2/21 in 4 overs) in the third over. He deceived rival skipper Rohit Sharma (5), who stepped out only to offer a return catch after failing to read a googly.
Gopal could have got rid of De Kock off the last ball of the over but Jofra Archer dropped a difficult chance at long on. Making most out of this reprieve De Kock helped his team reach 50-run mark in 6.5 overs.
He reached his own half-century in 34 balls and his partnership with Yadav was broken after the latter was caught in the deep off Stuart Binny in the 14th over. A few balls later De Kock too was holed out in long-on as Hardik Pandya and Pollard joined forces with scoreboard reading 112/3 in 15 overs.
Pollard (10 runs 7 balls) was dropped by Archer once again. Hardik Pandya continued his dream run of form with a breezy 23 off 15 balls.