Lendl Simmons hundred propels Mumbai Indians up to fifth

Defending IPL champions canter to seven-wicket victory over table-toppers Kings XI Punjab.
Mumbai Indians have recovered from a poor start to their IPL campaign this season. Pawan Singh / The National
Mumbai Indians have recovered from a poor start to their IPL campaign this season. Pawan Singh / The National

There was subtlety, decisiveness, power and timing in varying measures. There was authority in seizing a chase by the scruff of its neck. But most of all, there was the inevitable feeling that Lendl Simmons had just done to Kings XI Punjab what they had been routinely dishing out to opponents for much of the Indian Premier League season.

Simmons stroked and battered his way to the first century of the tournament, making sure that the Mumbai Indians kept alive their slender hopes of making the playoffs yesterday.

The Mumbai bowlers had begun the fightback, and Simmons then reduced the match to a no-contest with 100 not out off 61 balls. A packed and boisterous crowd had filled the PCA Stadium in Mohali, drawn in by the expectation that Punjab would make a winning debut on their home ground in what has been a spectacular season, but had to leave disappointed after Mumbai eased to a seven-wicket win in 19 overs, giving a boost to their net run-rate to leapfrog into the fifth position.

Put in, Punjab’s innings seemed headed for the normal 180-plus batting slugfest, but the Mumbai bowlers did admirably to rein the batsmen in, varying the pace skilfully on a good track to restrict the table-toppers to 156 for eight. Simmons then provided the main fireworks, treating the Punjab bowlers with scant respect as Mumbai scaled down the target.

Simmons used a mixture of power and timing, and the placement of his shots was spot on. He was sure-footed when stepping out and in control when giving himself room, creating and exploiting gaps in wide arcs square of the wicket on either side. Simmons faced the lion’s share of the strike in a 68-run opening stand with Michael Hussey that came off just seven overs, Simmons having raised his half-century within the Power Play overs off just 27 balls.

He had begun with three boundaries in the first over off Sandeep Sharma, and carried on in the same vein. The end of the fielding restrictions made no difference to his scoring rate. The advantage of the early assault was that the target – not formidable to begin with – seemed that much easier to get and consequently put Punjab’s bowlers under pressure.

The opening stand was followed by a 43-run association for the second wicket with Ambati Rayudu, the runs continuing to come at good clip. When Rayudu fell, Mumbai were 111 for two, and needed 46 off 49 balls.

Simmons raised his century off 61 balls, drawing applause from the crowd and a bear-hug from Kieron Pollard, his West Indies teammate, who had come in when Rohit Sharma fell with Mumbai in sight of victory. A ball later, Pollard smashed Shivam Sharma for the winning runs.

Punjab’s innings began with Virender Sehwag smashing a four and a six off the first two balls, but a suicidal call for a single in the third over resulted in his exit, Praveen Kumar effecting a run out after getting to the ball on his follow through. Praveen, playing for an indisposed Harbhajan Singh, conceded 10 runs in his first two balls, but would give only 10 more in his next 3.4 overs.

While Praveen kept his end tight, Punjab continued to gallop. The talented Manan Vohra (36 off 34) went for his shots as did Shaun Marsh (30 off 17), who has had an excellent run for Punjab since topping the run charts in 2008. Marsh replaced David Miller in the line-up, and took Glenn Maxwell’s No. 3 spot in the batting order.

Marsh kept the runs coming, and Punjab were going at over nine per over, when he fell to Krishmar Santokie. In the next over, Shreyas Gopal, who had come in for a bit of stick early on, turned the innings decisively with the wickets of Vohra and Maxwell. Vohra was castled while going for a heave, while Maxwell was too early into his shot to pop a return catch. From 87 for one in the 10th over, Punjab were 93 for four in 11 overs, and from there it was all uphill.

Santokie and Jasprite Bumrah bowled an assortment of slower balls to deny the batsmen pace, and while George Bailey (39 off 30) hit out at the end, all it did was give Punjab a reasonable total.

Eventually, it proved to be just enough to allow Simmons to get to a deserved landmark.

Saurabh Somani is sub editor at Wisden India. Visit www.wisdenindia.com for more on the IPL or follow them on Twitter @WisdenIndia.

sports@thenational.ae

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Published: May 21, 2014 04:00 AM

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