Second-string Mumbai Indians underlined their title credentials with a convincing nine-run win over Kolkata Knight Riders in both sides' final Indian Premier League (IPL) engagement at the Eden Gardens here on Saturday.
Having already qualified for the playoffs, the table toppers ringed in as many as six changes to their starting XI.
Krunal Pandya, R Vinay Kumar, Ambati Rayudu, Mitchell Johnson, Tim Southee, and Saurabh Tiwary were all slotted in with Jasprit, Harbhajan Singh, Nitish Rana, Parthiv Patel, Mitchell McClenaghan, and Lasith Malinga being rested.
But that had little impact in their performance as bench-warmers R. Vinay Kumar (2/31) and the pair of Rayudu (63; 37b; 6x4, 3x6) and Tiwary (52; 43b 9x4 0x6) did the job for the two-time IPL champions with the ball and bat respectively. Hardik Pandya (2/22) was the best bowler though for the away side.
The defeat saw the men in purple lose hopes of finishing second as now they will either end third or fourth and take part in the Eliminator on May 17. KKR could manage 164/8 in 20 overs with Trent Boult (5) and Umesh Yadav (4) at the crease.
Chasing 174 for victory, none of the home team batsmen could get going with Narine (0), Gautam Gambhir (21; 16b; 3x4, 1x6), Robin Uthappa (2) and Chris Lynn (26; 14b; 3x4, 2x6) departing for 53 on the board.
Manish Pandey (33; 33b; 2x4) and Colin de Grandhomme (29; 16b; 4x4, 1x6) tried hard to get their team over the line but even after what seemed to be a wrong umpiring decision when Johnson got the outside edge of Pandey in the 14th over and a drop catch by substitute J. Suchith at deep midwicket, Pandey fell short with Pandya taking his wicket. The duo stitched together a 41-run stand for the sixth wicket.
Gambhir and Lynn joined hands for the second wicket to engineer a 41-run partnership before Mitchell Johnson (1/30) got rid of the skipper.
Vinay got the wicket of Lynn while Narine and Uthappa fell to Tim Southee (2/39) and Karn Sharma (1/26) respectively.
Earlier, Rayudu, who had played only once before this game against Rising Pune Supergiant where he was stretchered out with a groin injury, starred for the visitors.
Tiwary, playing his first game of the season, stitched together a 61-run stand with Rayudu for the third wicket before being involved in another 57-run association with skipper Rohit Sharma (27 of 21 balls).
Brothers Hardik (not out 1) and Krunal Pandya (not out 0) were at the crease at the end of the innings.
Boult in his first spell returned splendid figures of 2-0-8-1, picking the prized wicket of Lendl Simmons who went back to the hut for a golden duck. The New Zealand pacer was pick of the bowlers returning figures of 2/30. Ankit Rajpoot bowled well too conceding just 14 runs in his three overs and also taking one wicket.
Boult, playing his fifth match this season, made the most of the 22-yard Eden strip which looked to have some bite for the quicks after the rain.
With Rohit Sharma at the crease and his enviable record at the venue in mind, Gambhir threw the ball to Sunil Narine in the fourth over. Narine has conceded just 77 runs in 71 balls to Rohit, also dismissing the India limited overs opener once in three innings at the Eden.
After six overs, the visitors were 51/1.
Just when Rohit looked good for another big innings at his favourite ground, Rajpoot put a spanner in the works with a cutter which the skipper tried to glance past short third man but was LBW.
Rayudu made the most of a reprieve in the 12th over when a Narine delivery spun back sharply to take a thin edge off the bat only for wicketkeeper Robin Uthappa to drop the catch.
The pair guided Mumbai to 100 runs in 13.1 overs before Tiwary was run out.
With Kieron Pollard at the crease, it was not such a big blow for Mumbai who had to up the ante. Rayudu smacked Kuldeep Yadav for a four and six before the chinaman bowler floated the ball wide to force the batsman playing after 37 days to come out of his crease and reach for the ball, handing Uthappa an easy stumping.
Pollard (13) could not do much damage toe-ending a Boult delivery for Yusuf Pathan to catch at cover.
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