© BCCI

While Hashim Amla stroked his way sublime unbeaten 104 off 60 balls, Jos Buttler and Nitish Rana stole the show with their lusty hitting to take Mumbai home with 27 balls to spare. © BCCI

There was a poll on television early into the 2017 Indian Premier League contest between Kings XI Punjab and Mumbai Indians on Thursday (April 20) night, asking viewers if Hashim Amla’s batting technique was a disadvantage for Punjab. A whopping 67% voted ‘yes,’ reaffirming the popular notion of traditional batsmen being considered unsuitable for the shortest format of the game.

On the night, Amla crushed that notion with conviction, hitting an unbeaten 104 off 60 balls to take to an imposing total of 198 for 4 in 20 overs.

But a hurricane 37-ball 77 from Jos Buttler, and supporting acts from Parthiv Patel and Nitish Rana, spoilt Amla’s party as Mumbai raced to a thumping eight-wicket win with a massive 27 deliveries to spare at the Holkar Stadium, which was hosting its last match of the season.

In the process, Rohit Sharma’s men registered their highest successful run chase, surpassing their previous tally of 190 against Rajasthan Royals in 2014.

With Manan Vohra, who almost steered Punjab to victory against Sunrisers Hyderabad three nights ago, missing out due to sickness, Shaun Marsh partnered Amla at the top of the order after Rohit won the toss and chose to field.

The duo started off well, but Marsh (26 off 21) holed out to Kieron Pollard off Mitchell McClenaghan at short midwicket in the sixth over to bring Wriddhiman Saha to the middle.

The promotion up the order did not work too well for Saha, who fell for 11, bowled by straight delivery from Krunal Pandya.

But from then on, the Punjab batsmen dominated the proceedings, with Glenn Maxwell smashing four boundaries and three sixes in his fiery knock of 40 off 18 balls, and Amla keeping the other end steady.

Maxwell pummelled McClenaghan’s third over for 28 runs, making it the second-most expensive over of the season so far.

The brisk third-wicket stand of 83 off 33 balls ended when Maxwell was finally deceived by a Jasprit Bumrah slower delivery, which went on to clip his off-stump, in the 17th over.

Amla then switched gears, and though Mumbai struck again, removing Marcus Stoinis for one, the South African racked up his first century in T20 cricket with eight boundaries and six sixes against his name.

With an average score of 156 recorded in the two games played at the venue this season so far, a chase of 199 could have been tricky. But the 22-yard strip on offer on the night continued to surprise the hapless bowlers, as Parthiv (37 off 18) and Buttler got the visiting side off to a blistering start.

The duo racked up as many as 81 runs in the first Power Play before Parthiv perished, caught by Maxwell off Stoinis at mid-off, off the penultimate ball of the sixth over.

Once the field was allowed to spread, Maxwell decided to stick to his slower bowlers, employing Axar Patel, Stoinis and Swapnil Singh to put a check on the rapid scoring rate.

It did not make much of a difference though, with Buttler and Rana finding the fence regularly, and often sending the ball to the stands with a second-wicket stand of 85 off 43 balls.

Buttler hit seven boundaries and five sixes during his stay, making full use of the short boundaries. He was eventually sent back by Mohit Sharma, who had him caught by Maxwell at mid-off in the 14th over, but by then, the equation read a simple 33 needed off 42 balls for Mumbai to go over the line.

Rana got back to the top of the run-getters’ list with a quick 54 not out off 31 balls – his third half-century of the tournament – and Hardik Pandya (15 n.o. off 4 balls) lashed a few lusty blows in the end to make short work of the chase.

With their fifth consecutive win, Mumbai raced to the top of the eight-team table with 10 points from six games.