Mumbai, May 17: When it was decided that R Ashwin would not be able to participate in the IPL after the sports hernia he suffered as a result of bowling endless overs in India's grand Test home season, Rising Pune Supergiant (RPS) were wondering who could replace him.
Little did they realise that a 17-year-old kid from Chennai, who answers to the unique name of Washington Sundar, would perform that role with the same poise that the star Indian off-spinner usually shows. Sundar has been a phenomenon for RPS as skipper Steve Smith has trusted him with the difficult job of bowling in the powerplays.
He entrusted him with that role again on Tuesday as RPS took on Mumbai Indians in the first Qualifier of IPL 10. Sundar vindicated his skipper's faith and broke the back of MI's top-order as he prised out the wickets of skipper Rohit Sharma (2), Ambati Rayudu (0) and Kieron Pollard (7) to rock the hosts in their chase of 162. Sundar's figures were a surreal 4-0-16-3.
Rohit was out lbw attempting a sweep to a straight delivery and Rayudu and Pollard were caught at mid-wicket by Steve Smith.
Those three strikes and a hectic finish by Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who rediscovered his six-appeal while belting 40 (26 balls, 5x6) and useful half-centuries by Manoj Tiwary 58 (48 balls, 4x4, 2x6) and Ajinkya Rahane 56 (43 balls, 5x4, 1x6) enabled RPS to beat MI by 20 runs and score their third win over MI this season and advance to the final in Hyderabad to be played on May 21.
RPS will meet the winners of the second qualifier and it could well be MI again. The two-time champs, who ended with 142/9, chasing RPS' 162/4, will travel to Bengaluru now and get another crack at the final and get a chance to avenge their three losses to RPS if they manage to win the game against the winner of the eliminator between Sunrisers Hyderabad and Kolkata Knight Riders today.
MI play their second Qualifier on Friday.
Rohit may be third on the list of highest scorers in the IPL with 4157 runs. But in the play-offs, he has scored just 130 runs in ten games. Rayudu, Pollard and the two Pandya brothers played forgettable strokes after Lendl Simmons was run out in an unfortunate fashion at the non-striker's end while backing up too far and Shardul Thakur's deflection off a Parthiv Patel straight drive hit the stumps.
Thakur also bowled well, using the slower ones to good effect to dismiss Krunal Pandya and Patel in the 15th over to snuff out any hopes of a revival. Patel though showed his value at the top by playing a lone but classy hand of 52 (40 balls, 3x4, 3x6).
MI would be excused in thinking that Tuesday's was a contest that got away from them. Their bowlers had kept things in check till the 18th over despite the polish shown by Rahane.
At the end of the 18th over, RPS were 121 for 3 with Dhoni struggling to middle the ball and Tiwary unable to find the boundaries consistently but Mitchell McClenaghan's fourth over and the 19th of the innings went for 26 as Dhoni hit him for two sixes and Tiwary hit him for another. McClenaghan also bowled a no ball and two wides in the same over.
Sundar's triple strike and Dhoni's cameo take Pune into final