Pune: Skipper Rohit Sharma (85 not out) continued to lead by example as a thoroughly professional Mumbai Indians outclassed Pune Supergiants by eight wickets in an Indian Premier League encounter, here on Sunday.
It was brilliant bowling at the backend by Jasprit Bumrah (3/29) and Harbhajan Singh (1/25) that saw MI restrict Supergiants to an unimpressive 159 for five with burly Saurabh Tiwary's slow 57 off 45 balls being the reason for team's defeat.
A below-par score was never going to pose any problems for the defending champions who surpassed the target in only 18.3 overs with skipper Rohit smashing an unbeaten 85 off 60 balls.
En route his fifth half-century in 9 games, Rohit hit eight boundaries and three sixes. The sixes were hit effortlessly in the mid-wicket region with last one ending the match. Rohit is now second in run-getters list with 383 runs in nine games and three runs behind David Warner (386 runs).
Having registered their fifth win in nine games, MI jumped to the second spot in the league table with 10 points, right behind Gujarat Lions, who are on 12 points. For Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the sixth defeat in eight games keeps them in the bottom rung with only four points in their kitty.
Disastrously enough, they have lost four home games in Pune.
In this tournament, Rohit has tried to change his game trying to anchor the chase with controlled aggression. With Parthiv Patel (21), Ambati Rayudu (22) and Jos Buttler (27 not out) making small but useful contributions, it became easy for the Mumbai stylist to take his team to a comfortable victory.
For Supergiants, it will be a catch-up game from now on as they would need to win at least five if not six games and also expect other results to go their way favourably.
Call it an ignominious record but if Supergiants fail to make it to the last four of the competition, it will be the first time since the inception of the tournament that Mahendra Singh Dhoni led team is not in the knock-out stage.
In eight seasons of IPL with the Chennai Super Kings, Dhoni has led the team to the finals on six occasions (2008, 2010 (w), 2011 (w), 2012, 2013, 2015) while the other two occasions ended in last four finishes (2009, 2014).
Earlier, Pune Supergiants frittered away a rollicking start as they managed only 159 for five against a disciplined Mumbai Indians attack.
While Steve Smith smashed 45 off 23 balls to raise visions of a formidable total but it was burly Saurabh Tiwary whose 57 off 45 balls (4x4, 2x6) turned out to be weaklink in their batting as he wasted a lot of deliveries at the backend of the innings.
It was his painfully slow batting and quest to reach an individual milestone that saw Supergiants get only 66 runs in their final 10 overs after Smith helped them a set a platform in the first 10 overs which saw MI giving away 93 runs.
There was a poor phase in the Supergiants innings as they lost the momentum between overs 11 and 15 scoring only 27 runs in that phase which was the turning point.
Much of the credit should go to Harbhajan (1/25 in 4 overs) for varying the pace and carefully altering the length of his deliveries as none of the batsmen got to chance his arms during those overs. The most successful bowler was Jasprit Bumrah (3/29 in 4 overs) who was economical as well as picked up the wickets of Smith, Dhoni and Tiwary.
The burly and overweight Tiwary, who is not one of the fittest cricketers around, failed to get going once Smith was out eventually completing his 50 off 39 balls. He neither had strength to hit sixes nor the stamina to help his skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni (24 off 24 balls) convert the singles into twos.
Smith seemed to have taken off from where he left during his century against Gujarat Lions the other night. He started with back to back boundaries off Tim Southee and then guided a short delivery from Mitchell McLenaghan over third man for a six. His second six was flick off left-arm slow bowler Krunal Pandya and third was an imperious pull shot off Krunal's younger brother Hardik.
While Smith teed off in stylish fashion, the burly Tiwary was slow off the blocks but it was Krunal's second over where he launched into him hitting two huge sixes.
Just when it seemed that another half-century was there for the taking, Smith was dismissed by Bumrah, who got one to bounce a shade more as the Australian captain trying to guide the ball to third man could only edge one to Parthiv Patel behind the stumps.
Smith's innings had four boundaries and three sixes and he added 84 runs with Tiwary for the second wicket.
Inexperienced Peter Handscombe (6) couldn't get going and a mistimed sweep off a Harbhajan Singh delivery was taken easily by Jos Buttler at square leg fence. Supergiants innings only went downhill from thereon.