Sharma leads Mumbai to close win

Mumbai, April 30 (IANS) Rohit Sharma played a sizzling knock to take his team over the line against Kings XI Punjab in the Indian Premier League here Monday.

Sharma continued with his rich form in the tournament, plundering 79 off 39 balls in Mumbai’s 174 for three. The strong looking bowling line-up then did enough to limit Punjab to 170 all out as the match was decided on the final ball. David Miller’s 56 went in vain while Harbhajan Singh (3/14) was the stand out bowler for Mumbai.

Punjab kept on with the asking rate in the first 10 overs but loss of five wickets for 79 hurt them bad. The rebuilding job was now with Miller and Azhar Mahmood. But Harbhajan removed the former Pakistan all-rounder and Gurkeerat Singh in the same over to further dent visitors’ hopes, leaving them at 111 for seven in 14 overs.

The South African played a blinder to keep his team in the hunt till the end but his dismissal in the 18th over tilted the match towards Mumbai.

The game still went into the final over with Punjab needing 17 off it. Dhawal Kulkarni kept his nerves to restrict Praveen Kumar, whose 24-run cameo kept the home crowd on the edge of their seats.

The win pushed Mumbai to fourth spot in the points table with six wins from nine games. Punjab are sixth in the standings having lost five of their nine matches.

Earlier, Sharma led from the front to propel Mumbai beyond 170, a total which seemed improbable when they were 88 for three in the 13th over.

Dwayne Smith (33) scored runs at the top and when he was caught in the deep off Piyush Chawla, Sharma took centrestage.

Such was his dominance of the Punjab bowlers, the destructive Kieron Pollard at the other end was forced to play second fiddle. Sharma scored 63 of their 88-run stand as 72 runs coming off the last five overs.

The most lucrative over of the innings was the last one when Sharma clobbered Punjab’s stand-in skipper David Hussey for three sixes and two fours. Sharma’s sublime effort was his fourth 50 plus score in the competition. Pollard remained unbeaten on 20.

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