Watson crushes Mumbai; a fitting farewell for Warne

Rajasthan batsman Shane Watson in action during their IPL match agaisnt Mumbai AFP

By Suneer Chowdhary

Mumbai: May 20, 2011

If Mumbai Indians had surprised their fans in the previous couple of games with two shocking batting collapses, it was the turn of their bowlers to stun their fans.

Shane Watson smashed a breath-taking unbeaten 47-ball 89-run knock as Rajasthan Royals provided the perfect send off to their retiring captain Shane Warne by thrashing Mumbai Indians by 10 wickets in their last IPL match here today.

Chasing 134 for a win, the decision to keep Watson out of the playing eleven in the previous game seemed to have worked as a nice kick up his backside. Watson came out spurred and got to his half century off 30 balls after he had pegged back three Mumbai Indians wickets for almost next to nothing.

Watson s hitting was so clean that it would have reminded the aficionados of the game of his bludgeoning batting against Bangladesh a month ago.

It started in the first over of the chase when Munaf Patel was flicked away to the fence before blasting Harbhajan Singh for a couple of swept sixes in the second.

With the momentum obtained, there was no stopping Watson and even when Mumbai s lethal weapon, Lasith Malinga came on to bowl, there was no respite for the home side. A driven four through mid-off and a pull to the mid-wicket all but pushed the Mumbai Indians back.

However, the final nail in the coffin seemed to have come as early as in the sixth over when a charged up Watson hit by a bouncer in the previous over from the Sri Lankan pulled three short balls from the bowler to get 14 off the over.

There wasn t too much stopping Watson after that as he brought his half century off the seventh over of the innings and then picked three more boundaries off Harbhajan in the eighth. Such was Watson s domination that by the end of the eighth over, he was on 71 while his opening partner Rahul Dravid had crawled to only eight.

Dravid got into his scoring mood with his first boundary off Kieron Pollard before flicking and cutting the same bowler in his next over to the fence. Munaf wasn t left alone, driven by Dravid to the fence again while pulling the bowler away to the square-leg boundary.

A shell-shocked Mumbai Indians went down in the 14th over, losing their third successive game of the tournament, making their game against the Kolkata Knight Riders a virtual must-win if Punjab were to win their last match.

Earlier, a half century from Rohit Sharma pulled the Mumbai Indians out of trouble after it had looked at one stage that the batting was going the same path that it had in the previous game between the two sides.

Mumbai Indians lost two early wickets with only 17 on the board and scored only 26 off the first six overs of the game.

The Mumbai Indians had decided to bat first after they won the toss, clearly trying to overcome the problems that seemed to have afflicted them in the previous two games while chasing moderate totals.

Ankeet Chavan bowled a nagging length to concede only 17 off his four overs, while Watson picked up both the opening wickets.

The acceleration came after Sachin Tendulkar s innings had been cut short by an Amit Singh bouncer, with the pair of Sharma and Kieron Pollard adding 53 for the fourth wicket off only 39 balls. Surprisingly, Pollard was the slower of the two, with Sharma looking in fine fettle. He got out in the last over of the innings to Warne, thereby becoming the spin wizard’s last vicitim in professional cricket.

To the credit of Rajasthan Royals, they bowled very tightly and never during the Mumbai Indians innings did it look like they would even threaten a score of more than 140.

Brief scores: MI 133 for five in 20 overs (Rohit Sharma 58, Sachin Tendulkar 31; Shane Watson 3 for 19, Amit Singh 1 for 20) lost to RR 134 for no loss in 13.1 overs (Shane Watson 89*, Rahul Dravid 43*) by 10 wickets

Man of the Match: Shane Watson

Full Scorecard

(Suneer is a Mumbai-based cricket writer and can be contacted at suneerchowdhary@gmail.com and Tweets here @suneerchowdhary)