IPL 2017 Match 2 Result : Smith shines as leader and batsman in RPS victory

Did Mumbai Indians read the pitch wrong? A greenish tinge compared to the dry wicket on offer for the India-Australia Test in Pune, did that bring about a change in Mumbai’s thinking? Why did Mumbai go in with a four-pace attack and leave the spin department bare? Mahela Jayawardene and Rohit Sharma will certainly have some discussions about the decisions they took. Meanwhile, it was a recurring tale that added more fuel to Mumbai’s slow-starters theory as a Steven Smith special and his forward thinking helped Rising Pune Supergiant begin their IPL 2017 campaign with a seven wicket victory.

IPL Match 2 RPS Victory over Mumbai Indians

“No one seems to have come up with a plan quite yet for Smith” – Buttler © BCCI

Even though Mumbai had gotten off to quick-fire start, racing away to 61 at the end of the powerplay, RPS managed to pull things back in superb fashion. Smith, before the match, had stressed on the need to take better control of the middle overs with both bat and ball, something that Pune were lacking in their journey last year. That they did manage to take control in this game was as much due to Smith’s understanding of how the game was headed – with sound inputs from MS Dhoni – as was the players rising to the need of the hour.

Among those to stand up and make the presence felt was Imran Tahir, who was introduced into the attack at the start of the seventh over, a bit earlier than he was supposed to, according to Smith. But his entry proved to be crucial as he delivered quick strikes, including that of an ominous looking Jos Buttler, to help his side usurp the momentum from the opposition.

“He is a world-class bowler. He picked up three crucial wickets, including Buttler and Parthiv [Patel]. They had started well but the confidence of Tahir when bowling to attacking batsmen was an important factor,” said Rahane, who added the the attacking mindset of both Tahir and Adam Zampa was the reason behind including both the overseas spinners in the eleven.

“Both of them are attacking, both of them actually look to take wickets and that’s very important in T20 games. If the leg-spinners are looking to take wickets then that’s a very good sign. Both of them have done really well, Zampa did really well for us last season and Imran Tahir we all know is a very good leg-spinner,” Rahane said.

Although Hardik Pandya’s belligerent cameo, which included taking four sixes and a four off Ashok Dinda in the final over, helped Mumbai post a competitive 184, RPS controlling the innings in the middle overs meant that Mumbai were at least 20 runs short. Still, it was a sizeable score and RPS needed the batsmen to step up right from the start and ensure that the control stayed with them. This is where Rahane led the show and Smith took over, with both making sure that the advantage did not slip at any point of time.

“Hardik batted really well in that last over. When you know that you’re chasing 180 plus, it’s the openers’ job to give a good start and it’s important to continue that momentum after the first six overs. I knew that I was batting really well and I was striking the ball really well. For me it was important to play with the same momentum. Smith was completely new [to the crease] at that moment. So I just wanted to take my chances and play my normal shots. I didn’t take any risks but it was important for both of is to keep rotating the strike and hit a boundary or a six in an over,” Rahane said of his approach.

When Smith came to the crease, Rahane had already moved to 27 off 14 and he contributed the bulk of the runs in a 58-run second-wicket stand that saw the RPS captain playing second fiddle. But once Rahane departed in the 11th over, Smith took charge of the proceedings and stayed true to his word of controlling the middle overs with an attacking mindset. From 25 off 22 at the time of Rahane’s departure, Smith pressed forward quickly, moving to 52 off 39 at the end of the 15th over.

Mumbai, in a last-ditch effort to salvage the game, sneaked in a couple of tight overs, leaving Pune with 13 to get in the final over. After all the good work in the middle overs, Pune failed to sustain that in the final over when they bowled. But Smith made sure that it didn’t repeat with the bat, thumping two big sixes off Kieron Pollard to seal the game with a delivery to spare.

“He’s probably the best batsman in the world at the moment, isn’t he? No one seems to have come up with a plan quite yet for him. He played really well, read the situation well and was not out at the end. We keep trying to formulate plans in team meetings but he was too good today,” said Buttler, in awe of Smith’s rich vein of form.

But had Mumbai held on to their chances, they could have well seen the back of Smith and later Dhoni, but neither of that happened and Mumbai were left ruing another false start to their campaign. The difference, in the end, proved to be Smith, who shined all through the game, be it selection, introduction of the right players for the right stages, laying emphasis on control or proving that his batsmanship belongs to a totally different level. Mumbai, in the end, were outsmarted, outplayed, and left to marvel.

Source :cricbuzz