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Rediff.com  » Cricket » Rohit Signs Off In Style!

Rohit Signs Off In Style!

By HARISH KOTIAN
May 18, 2024 12:30 IST
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Nicholas Pooran's attacking knock powered Lucknow Super Giants to a thumping five wicket victory against the Mumbai Indians on Friday, May 17, 2024.

But the night belonged to Rohit Sharma who entertained home fans with a superb knock under pressure to end his IPL 2024 campaign on a high.

Naman Dhir made a late charge with a blazing innings for his maiden IPL fifty while K L Rahul also helped himself to another fifty.

A look at the best knocks...

 

Rohit Sharma

Rohit enthralled spectators at his home ground, the Wankhede stadium, to a fine exhibition of sumptuous strokeplay in what could probably be his final knock for Mumbai Indians.

Rohit's batting had come for a lot of criticism after he struggled for runs in recent games. Since hitting the century against the Chennai Super Kings on April 14 at the Wankhede, Rohit managed just 88 runs in the next seven innings.

But he bounced in style with an entertaining 68 from 38 balls, with three sixes and 10 fours, to banish all concerns about his batting form going into the T20 World Cup.

The former MI captain walked out to bat to a huge cheer from Wankhede fans as the hosts were set a huge 215 for victory. He got a lucky boundary off the second ball of the innings when the leading edge off Arshad Khan flew over the point fielder for a four.

After that point, everything went off the middle. Rohit took full toll on LSG pacer Matt Henry with back to back sixes in the second over, pulling the short ball over square followed by a lofted shot over long off.

The 45 minute interruption due to rain didn't hamper Rohit's rhythm. With new opening partner Dewald Brevis struggling at the other end, Rohit took it upon himself to set the tone in the Powerplay with regular flow of boundaries.

Mohsin Khan was welcomed with a lofted boundary over the covers before the MI opener somehow managed to inside the next ball, a low full toss, which went to the right of wicket-keeper K L Rahul for another four.

Naveen-ul-Haq was also subjected to the same rough treatment as Rohit pulled the short ball over mid wicket followed by a lofted shot over mid off for back to back boundaries to take MI past the 50 run mark in the fifth over.

Two fours and a straight six off Mohsin in the seventh over brought the Wankhede to its feet as Rohit raced to his fifty from just 28 balls -- only his second fifty in IPL 2024 along with a century.

Leg-spinner Ravi Bishnoi could not do much either. Rohit crashed a wide half volley through the covers for a four before he picked the googly early to sweep it over short fine leg for the same result.

Rohit dominated the 81 run opening stand from 52 balls with Brevis, with the South African scoring 23 from 20 balls.

He eventually perished to Bishnoi as he got a thick edge trying to drive the full delivery and was caught at short third man.

Rohit walked back to another standing ovation with most MI fans in the stands wondering whether this was his last knock for their team.

Despite not being at his best with the bat, Rohit still finished as MI's top run-getter in IPL 2024, with 417 runs from 14 games.

Naman Dhir

Naman Dhir also made most of his final game of the season with a blistering half-century.

The Punjab batter, who was bought by MI at the auction for his base price of Rs 20 lakh (Rs 2 million), staged a stunning counter-attack which kept the home fans glued to their seats despite MI looking set for defeat.

Walking in to bat at No. 7 in the 15th over with MI tottering on 125/5, the right-hander started with a boundary off Bishnoi and then scooped Henry for a boundary over the wicket=keeper in the next over.

Krunal Pandya managed to keep a lid on the scoring before Dhir got an edge off the spinner for a boundary followed by a six over mid wicket.

Dhir got a lifeline on 27, when he was caught at deep square leg but Naveen overstepped and the MI batter made most of the free hit, smashing it back past the bowler for a four.

The equation came down to 50 from the last two overs.

Ishan Kishan struggled with his timing to score 13 from as many balls but Dhir kept the hosts in the contest. He launched Mohsin for back to back sixes to get 18 from the penultimate over.

34 were needed from the last over. Dhir made things interesting as he pulled Naveen's first ball for a six to race to his fifty in some style from 25 balls.

The next ball was lofted down the ground and looked to be headed for a six, but Krunal somehow managed to leap high and flick the ball inside the ropes to save the boundary and concede just a single.

Dhir ended the match with another beautiful inside out shot over the covers for a six.

How MI will regret not sending Dhir higher up the order, as he finished unbeaten on a cracking 62 from 28 balls, at a strike rate of 228, with five sixes and four fours.

K L Rahul

Rahul played a crucial role in anchoring the Lucknow Super Giants innings despite a slow start, eventually reaching a well-composed 51 off 41 balls, hitting three sixes and as many fours.

His knock provided much needed stability during a period when LSG struggled to find momentum.

While Rahul began cautiously, holding onto one end as wickets fell around him, he didn't succumb to the pressure. He stitched together two crucial partnerships -- a 48-run stand with Marcus Stoinis and a match-defining 109-run partnership with Nicholas Pooran.

After playing a watchful role, he suddenly found his scoring touch, flicking a switch and launching consecutive sixes off Piyush Chawla. Rahul didn't hit a single boundary in the first five overs, managing just five runs from nine runs before he broke free against Chawla's spin.

Pooran's stunning assault was a big relief for Rahul, who never looked comfortable hitting over the top.

Though Rahul's fifty came from 37 balls, his knock was valuable in providing a solid platform for the later onslaught by Pooran. He accelerated towards the end, hitting part-time spinner Naman Dhir for a six in the 15th over before getting a couple of boundaries off Romario Shepherd.

Rahul finished the season with 520 runs from 14 games with four fifties, but his strike rate of 136 was a big letdown especially considering that he played as the opener in all the games.

Nicholas Pooran

Pooran's explosive batting display was the heart and soul of LSG's imposing total of 214/6.

His innings served as a masterclass in clean hitting and dominance with the bat in T20 cricket.

At a time when LSG's innings lacked momentum, Pooran stepped up to take center stage. He started off with a six off the first ball he faced, pulling pacer Anshul Kamboj for a six over square leg.

He got lucky in Kamboj's next over when the inside edge narrowly missed the stumps and went fine for a four. Thereafter the pacer suffered as the Trinidadian left-hander slammed a four and two sixes off consecutive deliveries, in the 13th over.

The sluggishness of the wicket, evident in LSG's initial struggles (69/3 at the halfway mark), was defied by Pooran's aggressive strokeplay. He feasted on the MI pace attack, showcasing his destructive potential in the shortest format.

Hardik Pandya got the same treatment with Pooran helping himself to a couple of sixes off the MI captain.

Arjun Tendulkar got a taste of Pooran's power hitting as he was smashed for a couple of sixes over the leg side, both off full tosses in the 15th over, as LSG batter raced to fifty from 19 balls which he celebrated by blowing a few kisses to the spectators, which included Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Keith Rowley.

Arjun was saved from further embarrassment by cramps which forced him to retire after bowling just two deliveries in his third over. His replacement Naman Dhir was not spared either as he got hit for a six and a four.

Nuwan Thushara was hit for a couple of fours in the 17th over before the Sri Lankan pacer got revenge with Pooran's wicket.

Eight mighty sixes launched over the ropes -- a testament to his clean hitting and ability to find the boundary irrespective of the line and length bowled by MI's pacers.

Whether they attempted wide yorkers or came closer to the stumps, Pooran found a way to dispatch the ball to the stands.

While the top order struggled to adapt, Pooran's 29-ball blitz of 72, with eight sixes and five fours, completely shifted the momentum in LSG's favour.

While Rahul anchored the innings with his solidity, Pooran's whirlwind knock laid the foundation for LSG's strong showing.

LSG Vs MI: Who Played The Best Knock? Vote!

Photographs: BCCI

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HARISH KOTIAN / Rediff.com

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