AHMEDABAD: Skipper Steve Smith struck his maiden IPL half-century as the young Australian led Rajasthan Royals to a comfortable seven-wicket win over Mumbai Indians in their IPL cricket match, here today.
It was Royals' third consecutive win while Mumbai suffered their third defeat in a row.
Chasing a challenging 165 to win, Royals romped home in 19.1 overs with Smith scoring an unbeaten 79 from 53 balls.
He was well supported by Ajinkya Rahane (46) as they raised a 64-run stand for the second wicket.
Smith shifted gears at will as he first relied on finding the gaps, running hard between the wicket, and when needed, he found the boundaries effortlessly. He found the fence eight times and also smashed a six.
The decision to bat seemed to have backfired as Mumbai managed only 45 runs in the first 10 overs but the fiery 104-run stand between Kieron Pollard (70) and Corey Anderson (50) changed the team's fortunes as they ended with a respectable 164 for five.
Pollard's 70 came off just 34 balls as he punished the Royals bowlers with seven fours and five sixes while Anderson supported the Caribbean with a 38-ball 50.
Royals were steady in their chase despite losing Sanju Samson (17) early. There were no big shots to see but under the charismatic leader Smith, Royals kept a decent run-rate.
As has been Smith's style, he rotated strike quickly with ones and twos with Ajinkya Rahane finding the odd boundary in between from the other end.
The strategy continued for some time but now Royals now needed 80 runs from the last eight over. The biggest plus was that they had nine wickets in hand.
Rahane was dismissed by Shreyas Gopal as he tried to accelerate. In came young sensation Deepak Hooda and he started the fireworks straightaway by hitting two monstrous sixes off Gopal.
Malinga, though, sent the exciting youngster back with his toe-crushing yorker that rattled his stumps.
The pressure built up with required run-rate now little over 10 but Smith not only kept one end tight but also started to score more briskly. He reached his maiden IPL fifty with two consecutive boundaries off Malinga. In all he creamed off 15 runs from that 17th over.
Needing 12 from 12 balls, It was a cakewalk for Royals.
Earlier, the Royals bowlers, who had straight-jacketed the Mumbai batsmen for the major part of the innings, were clueless against the Caribbean stroke-maker and Anderson, who got life on 23 after being caught off a no ball.
Steven Smith used four different bowlers in the Power-play overs after being asked to bowl and the ploy worked as Mumbai could only manage 31 runs in six overs.
Not only this, Mumbai opener Aaron Finch pulled a hamstring while attempting a single in the fourth over, bowled by Stuart Binny. Helped by teammates, Finch (10) limped back to the dugout, unable to keep his left leg on the ground.
Unmukt Chand joined Parthiv Patel at the crease but the left-hander offered a simple catch to Chris Morris off Dhawal Kulkarni to be dismissed for 16.
Kiwi paceman Tim Southee was very effective with his outswingers while Kulkarni also kept a very tight line. Binny too bowled a probing line and was rewarded soon as he scalped rival captain Rohit Sharma (0), who edged one to slips.
Leg-spinner Pravin Tambe was introduced and he struck immediately, castling Chand (12).
Such was the discipline and domination of the Royals' bowlers that Mumbai scored only 45 runs in 10 overs, managing only six shots to the fence.
Pollard broke the shackles by dispatching a Chris Morris delivery to boundary ropes and then Anderson lofted the same bowler two balls later for another four. The Caribbean smashed James Faulkner for a six over mid-wicket.
Anderson was caught off a no ball from Kulkarni and he made the Royals pay for that mistake immediately, hitting Southee for a massive six and followed it up with a four.
The two batsmen creamed off 17 runs from the 17th over by Faulkner as the run riot began.