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MI win, keep hopes alive

- Simmons & Hussey’s 120-run opening stand makes the difference
Michael Hussey on way to his 56, on Monday

Ahmedabad: Mumbai Indians (MI) kept their play-off hopes alive with a comfortable 25-run victory over Rajasthan Royals (RR) in a one-sided IPL encounter here on Monday.

Batting first, MI scored a stiff 178/3, riding on half-centuries from Lendl Simmons (62) and Mike Hussey (56).

In reply, RR were never in the chase as they were restricted to 153 for eight. Karun Nair, who scored 48 off 24 balls, was the only top order batsman to make a mark. Brad Hodge (40) and James Faulkner (31) tried their bit, but it was a little too late.

It was a collective effort by the MI bowlers, led by Harbhajan Singh. Harbhajan got two for 13 from four overs. Pragyan Ojha also did his bit with two for 30 from his four overs.

The RR’s baffling decision to rest the performing trio of Ajinkya Rahane, Pravin Tambe and Steven Smith backfired as the team lost the necessary momentum going into the match.

With 14 points from 12 games, RR remain third on the points table and are firmly in the hunt for the play-offs. But back to back losses will certainly effect their chances of finishing in the top two. Mumbai now have eight points from 11 matches.

Unmukt Chand (2) finally got a game, but it could well be the last one in the tournament. It was a rank bad delivery from Pragyan, but Unmukt failed in his bid to play a proper pull-shot as Mike Hussey made no mistake to take a catch at the deep mid-wicket boundary.

Shane Watson (5) did not get going as he misjudged the turn off an Ojha delivery and the ball ballooned up for Ambati Rayudu to take a simple catch at mid-on.

Sanju Samson (2) also played early to a Krishmar Santokie slower one, as Rayudu took his second catch. RR were reduced to 42 for three.

While Karun was playing his strokes at other end, Kevon Cooper was dismissed by a sheer piece of fielding brilliance from Kieron Pollard standing at the long-on boundary.

The giant Caribbean timed his jump to perfection as he plucked a one-handed catch but the momentum was forcing him over the ropes. He kept his balance and threw the ball inside. He then turned in a flash to dive in front and completed a stunner as Cooper looked shell-shocked.

At 61 for four, leggie Shreyash Gopal playing his first game was brought into operation. He accounted for Ankit Sharma and Stuart Binny in quick succession to ensure that there was no comeback for the Royals. Karun’s fight ended when he was caught by Krishmar Santokie, off a Harbhajan Singh delivery.

At the end of 12 overs, Royals were reeling at 75 for seven. Faulkner and Hodge did try but there was too much to do in the end.

Earlier, Mumbai Indians top-order fired in one of the rare occasions as they put up a competitive 178 for three due to a century-plus opening stand between Hussey and Simons.

Comeback man Hussey (56) and Simmons (62) put on 120 runs for the opening stand, which incidentally was the first three-figure partnership for MI in 30 games.

The last time MI had a century stand was when Sachin Tendulkar and Dwayne Smith conjured 163 runs against the same opposition during the 2012 edition.

Simmons also proved to be an able partner as he started slowly but picked up the pace as time progressed. Both ran well between the wickets converting a couple of singles into twos.