Steve Smith's love affair with the MCA Stadium is getting more profound. After his memorable 109 against India in a Test match recently, the Australian scored a match-winning 84 (54 balls, 7x4, 6x3) to grab a thrilling seven-wicket win for Rising Pune Supergiant against Mumbai Indians here on Thursday.
Needing a challenging 185 to win, Smith smote Kieron Pollard for two sixes in the final over of the innings as the hosts got home with just one ball remaining.
Ajinkya Rahane's 34-ball 60 was another bright spot for the hosts. Opening the innings for Supergiant at the MCA Stadium, Rahane (6x3, 4x4) looked unstoppable. He stitched a 58-run partnership with Steve Smith in seven overs after opener Mayank Agarwal had gone early.
None of the six bowlers Mumbai used could stem the tide of runs with Tim Southee, Hardik Pandya, Krunal Pandya, Mitchell McClenaghan and Kieron Pollard all going for over eight runs per over.
Earlier, Imran Tahir proved auctions are not always the best place to judge talent.
The South African leg-spinner, who was left unsold in the auction and later taken by RPSG as Mitchell Marsh's replacement, was the highest wicket-taker for the hosts. Tahir took 3-28 in four overs.
For Mumbai, opener Jos Buttler's 19-ball 38 and an unbeaten 14ball 35 by Hardik Pandya took them to 184-8 in 20 overs. Mubai's total got a late boost when Pandya slaughetered Ashok Dinda in the final over which went for 28.
Before the match, while Smith said that the wicket at MCA Stadium looked a lot different from the one used during the Test match a month ago, his playing XI suggested otherwise.
The Pune skipper didn't mind experienced batsman Faf du Plessis to bring in leg-spinners Tahir and Adam Zampa. Other than himself and expensive all-rounder Ben Stokes, the captain could have accommodated only two foreigners. He went with the leggies.
His call was justified by Tahir, who unsettled Mumbai's top order by sending back opener Parthiv Patel (19) in his first over, and then Rohit Sharma (3) and Jos Buttler (38) on the third and fifth deliveries respectively of his second over. Mumbai, after Tahir's introduction, went from 41-0 in four overs to 62-3 in seven overs.
With Tahir and Zampa operating together, Mumbai decided to send left-hander Nitish Rana ahead of Kieron Pollard. Rana (34) handled the spinners well.
Pollard at No. 7 didn't waste much time and scored a quick 27 off 17 balls, before Mayank Agarwal at long on got him through a stunning diving catch off Stokes.