IPL 2015: Five Things We Learned From Mumbai Indians’ Victory Over Rajasthan Royals

IPL 2015 Mumbai Indians v Rajasthan Royals
Rayudu and McClenaghan helped Mumbai win against Rajasthan

Mumbai Indians (MI) registered their 3rd win of this season’s Pepsi IPL, with a relatively comfortable 8-run victory over Rajasthan Royals (RR) at the Wankhede Stadium last night.

The Indians hadn’t played well in the tournament until last night, and it was always going to be a stringent examination of their mental toughness and ability to execute their plans against the second-placed Rajasthan.

The visitors came into this game having not had a win in their four previous fixtures, two of which were washed out, and wanted to win this game to gain some momentum.

Shane Watson, the Royals’ skipper, won the toss and asked Mumbai to bat first on what was a decent batting surface that had a bit of bounce to keep the bowlers interested.

The hosts made a good start through their openers, lost their way a bit during the middle overs, but got themselves to a competitive total of 187/5 as a result of Ambati Rayudu’s scintillating innings.

RR needed 188 to win for the first time in five games, and they looked on course for a major part of their run-chase.

However, the hosts kept themselves in the game by picking wickets and the visitors’ batsmen, except Sanju Samson, failed to make substantial contributions.

Samson single-handedly tried to take his side home, but once he got out in the 18th over for an astonishing innings of 76(46), the visitors’ chances of winning became slim. Mumbai won by 8 runs after a nervy last over by Vinay Kumar, and got themselves to six points after eight games.

In retrospect, what did we learn from that MI performance? Read on…

Have Mumbai unearthed a reliable opening combination?

Mumbai, from the very first season of the Indian Premier League, have struggled to find an opening combination that gives them solidity at the top of the order and a platform for the middle and lower-middle order to throw the kitchen sink during the latter stages of the innings.

This season has been no different in that regard, with Aaron Finch, the new recruit from Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH), injuring his hamstring and having to go home after playing just three games.

However, having seen Lendl Simmons contribute so much to his side making it to the playoffs last season, Finch’s absence wasn’t going to concern MI much, if the Caribbean opener played like he did last season.

But the problem was going to be in finding a partner for Simmons. Parthiv Patel has been given that responsibility of opening the innings with Simmons, and the wicket-keeper batsman has done a decent job so far.

In the last four games, this opening combo of Simmons and Parthiv has averaged over 42 runs per innings, though only Simmons has kicked on and played bigger innings’ than the diminutive southpaw.

Against Royals last night, it was Parthiv who took the initiative of scoring boundaries in the mandatory powerplay, and helped himself to an attractive 14-ball 23 while his partner wasn’t in the best of rhythm.

The story could well have been different if Samson hung on to the chance Simmons gave him in the very first over. But, from MI’s perspective, it was important that the openers stayed there for a while and scored at least 8 runs per over during the first 6 overs, which is exactly what the Parthiv-Simmons duo did.

In this format of the game, if the opening pair can give you 40 runs in every innings they go out to bat, any team would be happy, and it should be no different in Mumbai’s case.

They will be hoping that Parthiv and Simmons can continue to perform at the top of the order, like they have done in the last four fixtures, subsequently laying a foundation for their side to post totals in the region of 180-200.

Rayudu’s innings of 53(27) was an absolute gem

Mumbai batsmen had delivered only on one occasion prior to yesterday. Their solitary good performance came against the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) at the Chinnaswamy Stadium when they posted a mammoth score of 209 on the board, with the likes of Simmons, Rohit Sharma and Unmukt Chand making substantial contributions to their team’s total.

Mumbai also have had problems with their batting order that has been shuffled and renovated on far too many occasions. The general consensus has been that Rohit, the team’s best batsman, should bat no less than at No.3.

However, Mumbai have persevered with their skipper slotting himself at No.4, behind Chand at No.3.

Against the Royals, MI’s top four remained the same but at No.5, instead of Kieron Pollard, Rayudu walked in with his side needing to rebuild after the fall of Chand, with the scorecard reading 3/84 in the 11th over.

The Hyderabadi batsmen played a lot of singles down to long-on and long-off to kick start his innings. It wasn’t until the 17th over, that Rayudu put his foot on the accelerator and started to look for boundaries.

Rohit too got out at a critical stage of the innings and Mumbai needed someone to hang in there with the incoming Pollard.

That notion, however, went into the trashcan once Rayudu started striking it sweetly and nonchalantly, assuming the role of the leading batsman in the partnership.

He really took the attack to Southee, who delivered the 19th over and conceded 16 runs, 15 of which came from the bat of Rayudu who scored a couple of boundaries, a six and single.

He brought up his 50 in the last over of the MI innings, finishing with 53 from 27 balls, punctuated by four 4s and three massive 6s.

In the end analysis of the game, it probably was his innings that made the difference to Mumbai registering their second consecutive victory for the first time this season.

Mitchell McClenaghan made the difference to Mumbai’s bowling

Mumbai’s bowling has been their achilles heel for much of this season, even though they defended a paltry 157 against the Sunrisers in their last game prior to yesterday.
Lasith Malinga hasn’t looked his usual self; Harbhajan Singh has bowled well, but also gone for runs; the likes of Jagadeesha Suchith and Vinay Kumar have been unreliable and expensive at most times.
A similar story ensued even last night against the Royals who, in their pursuit of 188, were going along smoothly, keeping the required rate well within their grasp and scoring boundaries at will against the hosts’ bowling attack.
Mitchell McClenaghan was the standout bowler for the hosts for a second game in succession.
The Kiwi seamer didn’t start off well, but redeemed himself after an erratic first couple of overs that went for nine and 12 runs respectively.
He was brought back into the attack in the 15th over, with Steve Smith on strike and RR needing 64 runs from the last six overs.
After bowling a wide in the first delivery of the over, McClenaghan superbly tied down Smith by bowling outside off-stump, getting the ball to bounce from just back of a good length.
He was clever in the way he operated to Smith, who is strong off his pads and with vertical bat shots down the ground.
He succeeded in bowling back of a length to Smith, who failed to put bat to ball in three consecutive deliveries and, having got just 3 runs from the first 5 balls in the 15th over, a big shot was definitely around the corner: McClenaghan persevered with the same line and length of attack, Smith slashed at it this time and top-edged it to third-man, who took a good low catch. The tactic was brilliantly executed by the New Zealand seamer.
In the 18th over, McClenaghan had the challenge of bowling to Samson, who was on song last night. The Kerala batsman tonked him for a six over cover on the third ball of the over and got the equation well in favor of his side.
McClenaghan responded with a wicket in the very next ball, picking up Samson, who spooned an easy catch to long-off, and wresting the initiative for his side.
On a day when all MI bowlers were taken for over 30 runs, with Vinay and Suchith conceding 78 runs from their combined quota of 8 overs, McClenaghan’s figures of 4-0-31-3 were crucial to his side winning the game.
Mumbai can reinforce their playing XI – if they want
 
I have been clamoring for changes to be made to Mumbai’s playing XI ever since the Indians suffered defeat against Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) on the opening day of the season.
The purchase of Vinay from KKR made no sense to me, and the Karnataka Ranji skipper has also failed to harness the consistent run of games given to him by the team management.
The MI think-tank probably believes that Vinay is the better of all other Indian bowlers – Pawan Suyal, Jasprit Bumrah, Abhimanyu Mithun, Shreyas Gopal – they have at their disposal.
However, they could very well look at the option of playing the all-rounder Hardik Pandya in place of Vinay, as he can score runs with the bat and chip in with a couple of overs, too.
During his outings against RCB and Delhi Daredevils (DD), Pandya showed that he can be more than a decent bowler, though he went for 51 runs from the 5 overs he bowled in both games combined.
When Vinay plays, not only is he the weak link in the MI bowling attack, but the pressure on the three leading bowlers – Malinga, Harbhajan and McClenaghan – becomes immense and it could well boomerang for Mumbai on one or the other day.
The other change I would make will be that of Chand, who hasn’t got going with the bat in 5 games he has played so far. The Delhi batsman has scored a mere 102 runs in 5 innings, including a 58 against RCB. MI can persevere with Chand if they want to, but for how long? What are the other options?
There aren’t many replacement options for Chand but the MI think-tank could probably look at bringing in Aditya Tare at No.6, pushing someone like Rohit or Rayudu into that No.3 slot.
Mumbai need consistent results and at least 4 wins from the remaining 5 games in the league phase, and cannot be sticking with non-performers – both Vinay and Chand once again failed yesterday in their respective trades, and do not look like benefiting the team in future games either.
MI were the better of the two sides over 40 overs
 
Mumbai, having been put into bat, posted a good score of 187 on the board. But playing at Wankhede, you can never feel secure even after posting such scores, as we already have had the example of Chennai Super Kings (CSK) chasing 184 with utmost disdain earlier this season.
The Royals, for their part, were always in with a shout, first with the bowl and then when they batted.
Therefore, there wasn’t a whole lot of difference between the sides that produced a good game. But Mumbai had the better of their opponents over 40 overs and deserved to come away with a victory and two points.
Final Thought
Mumbai, with their third victory of the season, have got themselves to 6 points from 8 games. Yesterday’s victory, however, didn’t change their position on the points table and they remained where they started the evening at, in 7th place.
But the manner of this victory, which came as a result of producing a close-to-comprehensive performance, should give them confidence ahead of the upcoming trio of games – against Kings XI Punjab (KXIP), DD and CSK – in the next 7 days.
Mumbai will be hoping that they can continue to perform like they did last night, as they will pose far better challenges to their upcoming opponents, who easily beat them in the first round of fixtures.

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