Mumbai Indians (MI) registered their fifth consecutive victory in the 8th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL), as they successfully overcame a star-studded Chennai Super Kings (CSK) side by six wickets.
It was Mumbai’s first victory over their illustrious opponents for five games, and they had to give blood and sweat to not slump to their 5th consecutive defeat against the men in yellow.
MS Dhoni won the toss and chose to bat first, which is the norm in any fixture played at the MA Chidambaram Stadium, and the home side went into the game with three specialist spinners – Ravichandran Ashwin returned to action in place of Ishwar Pandey, while Pawan Negi and Ravindra Jadeja retained their places – in the playing XI.
Mumbai, on the other hand, had to bring in Marchant de Lange for Lasith Malinga, who was not eligible to play in Chennai.
The hosts, unlike in the reverse fixture between these sides, couldn’t really get going with the bat at any stage during their innings, and credit to the visitors for choking up the runs and making life difficult for the CSK batsmen.
The top three batsmen fell cheaply, and the mantle was handed over to Dhoni and Faf du Plessis to get their side to a respectable score. However, du Plessis, in trying to up the ante in the 16th over, fell to Mitchell McClenaghan which really put the squeeze on the Super Kings’ innings. It was Negi’s ultra-impressive 17-ball 39 that got Chennai over 150, a score that usually is hard to chase at the Chepauk.
Mumbai got off to a good start and had the game in the bag after 10 overs. But in trying to keep the scoreboard moving, the visitors lost three wickets for two runs in the space of two overs and let the home side come back into the game. They finally got there, in the end, aided by Dhoni’s ‘tactical error’, which you don’t often get from the tried and tested Ranchi lad.
It was a morale-boosting victory for MI, albeit it need not have been under such dramatic circumstances. In hindsight, what did we learn from an inspiring Mumbai performance?
Mumbai blunted Chennai’s threat upfront with bat and ball
This Chennai side is known for doing most of the damage early on in the game, be it with bat or ball. It was ‘the’ reason for the ignominious defeat Mumbai suffered at the Wankhede earlier in the season, in a match which saw Brendon McCullum and Dwayne Smith make a mockery of the target – 184 – set by the home side that day. Ashish Nehra also got wickets with the new ball, which really set Mumbai back.
I am sure that it would have been discussed in the MI camp prior to the game, and they did well to smother CSK early on in both the innings.
McClenaghan, de Lange and Jagadeesha Suchith bowled good lines and lengths, depriving the hosts’ opening duo of any freebies.
McCullum was the one who showed genuine intent in going for the boundaries while Smith couldn’t find his touch. Mumbai should have had the New Zealand skipper in the third over, which was delivered by Suchith, when Harbhajan Singh uncharacteristically put down a dolly. But they weren’t punished by the hard-hitting right-hander, who fell in the fifth over to Vinay Kumar’s bowling, giving a simple catch to Hardik Pandya, who was positioned on the deep mid-wicket boundary.
It was a much-needed wicket for Mumbai, who not only gained that early impetus in the game but neutralized CSK’s biggest threat.
Also, when Mumbai came out to bat, Parthiv Patel and Lendl Simmons showed great tactical awareness in delivering a quick, and perfect, start to their side. They attacked Nehra in particular, and scored a whopping 28 runs in his first two overs, putting Dhoni and the home side under extreme pressure.
The purple cap holder didn’t have an answer to both Parthiv and Simmons, who pounced on even the slightest error in line or length committed by the left-arm seamer, who finished with figures of 3-0-45-0.
In the overall context of the game, Mumbai blunting Chennai’s threat upfront was pivotal to their victory last night.
Malinga wasn’t missed as was first thought
It was advantage CSK for the simple reason that Mumbai had the leader of their bowling attack ineligible to play.
Not only did it mean that de Lange, who hadn’t played a single game in the tournament until last night, replaced the talismanic Sri Lankan, but the visitors had to depend on other bowlers to pick wickets for them, which was never going to be easy against a batting lineup of Chennai’s calibre.
However, it was so invigorating to see McClenaghan, de Lange and young Suchith take over the baton from Malinga and deliver in the manner they did.
de Lange, in particular, bowled well, taking into account that it was his first game of this campaign. He went for a mere five runs in his first two overs, which saw him bend his back and get the ball to carry nicely to Parthiv behind the stumps. He got a bit of tapping from Dhoni and Negi at the fag end of Chennai’s innings, but you expect that in this format of the game.
Suchith continues to impress with each passing game, and it is particularly pleasing to see him thrive while bowling in the powerplay overs, which can be a nightmare for most spinners. Also, when he came on for his second spell, in the 9th over of Chennai’s innings, it was Suresh Raina on strike and, against a left-arm spinner, you expect a left-hand batsman to harness the affable angle of the delivery. But Suchith stuck to his task and dismissed the southpaw right after being hit for a six earlier in the over.
McClenaghan continued the good work he has been doing since his first game of this edition of the IPL and bowled better than his figures of 4-0-34-1 suggest.
Harbhajan and Vinay were the not-so-impressive bowlers for the visitors, as they went for 69 runs in 7 overs combined. The off-spinner, who was expected to relish bowling on the Chennai wicket, didn’t have a good outing following his magnificent spell against Delhi Daredevils (DD) three nights back.
Vinay… well, is the weak link as far as Mumbai’s bowling attack is concerned. He bowls too short for a bowler of his pace and doesn’t put enough effort into his deliveries. With Pandya showing good signs as a bowler, I would be tempted to play an extra batsman in place of the Karnataka Ranji skipper.
In the grand scheme of things, it was a job well done with the ball for MI who, in the absence of Malinga, were expected to struggle.
The playing surface behaved better compared to the previous games in Chepauk
The nature of the surface was something that Mumbai had to contend with, especially for a team that plays on a million times quicker wicket at the Wankhede Stadium.
In Chennai, the wicket is dry, devoid of grass and moisture, and helps the ball stick to the wicket for a fraction of a second, which makes it tough for the batsman to time his shots.
However, last night, I felt that it was more batsmen-friendly compared to the previous games. Also, there was better carry to the wicket-keeper, and the spinners couldn’t extract as much turn as they would have anticipated. Yes, it was on the slower side, but not as slow as in some of the previous games played at this venue.
A better wicket meant that Chennai probably needed a score in the region of 170-180. 158 was still a good score, but it wasn’t good enough yesterday, especially, and Dhoni addressed that in his post-match interview.
There also appeared to be a bit of dew in the second innings, which made it slightly easier for Mumbai to chase down the target of 159.
The understated players in the Indians’ setup stepped up once again
Mumbai’s renaissance in this year’s Pepsi IPL has been totally down to what the understated players in that lineup have achieved thus far.
The likes of Parthiv, Ambati Rayudu and Pandya can become obscure in a side that boasts of the Malingas, Kieron Pollards and Rohit Sharmas.
However, we simply cannot forget the contributions made by Parthiv and Rayudu, in particular, over the last four games, including yesterday’s, which have seen this duo make big runs in crucial games for their side.
Rayudu, being a finisher, has come in at big-pressure situations and played some jaw-dropping innings that are not usually expected of the Hyderabadi batsman, who is more of a grafter.
Patel has been fluent at the top of the innings over the last four games, scoring boundaries at will and putting pressure on oppositions’ new ball bowlers – Mitchell Johnson, Nehra and Tim Southee, to name a few – who simply haven’t had an answer to the wicket-keeper batsman’s audacious stroke-making.
Last night saw Pandya thrive on the big stage and make the world take notice of his talents. When pitted against another contender for the emerging player of the tournament, in Negi, the right-hander punched above his weight and played an absolute gem of an innings that saw Mumbai win from an improbable position of needing 30 runs in the final two overs.
On the field, he continued his good work, taking good catches and stopping boundaries – a display that might well have given him the confidence heading into the batting innings.
It is so pleasing to see MI’s understated players come to the party and deliver under crunch circumstances. Such performances have made Mumbai a stronger unit than they first seemed, and yesterday’s victory also showed that they are not over-reliant on the superstars of the side.
Mumbai proved their efficiency against CSK, once again
As aforementioned, Mumbai had lost their previous four games – all three last season, and the reverse fixture this season – against Chennai, which made the head-to-head record between the sides look much more even, with 10-9 in favor of the South Indian franchise.
However, Mumbai have, over the years in the IPL, been the only side that has really gone toe-to-toe with Dhoni’s devils and made them look an ordinary outfit.
Last night too, whenever CSK appeared to take a forward step, Mumbai did well to keep themselves in the game.
They bowled well for a majority of Chennai’s innings, and Dhoni’s side had notched up a mere 104 at the beginning of the 16th over. Then there was that partnership between Dhoni and Negi, who took their side to 158, giving themselves an advantage going into the second innings of the game.
However, the way MI came out all guns blazing, and took Chennai’s bowling apart, was simply wonderful. They, once again, lost their way in the second half of their innings, leaving themselves with too much to do in the last five overs.
The home side started getting a stranglehold of proceedings, and it increasingly looked like MI had committed hara-kiri after getting off to such a good start.
But in Rayudu and Pandya, they once again found two heroes who pinched the game that was firmly in CSK’s grasp, shocking the home crowd that is rather used to seeing their side winning and not let these kinds of situations go begging.
It really has been a massive turnaround in MI’s season that began with four consecutive defeats. Having won five out of their last six games, they have got to 12 points from 11 games and given themselves a genuine chance of making it to the playoffs.
They still have major work to be done and cannot afford to take things for granted, as they play Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) and Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) – at home – in their next two games that will go a long way in deciding their fate. The significance of yesterday’s victory over Chennai just cannot be stressed enough, and Mumbai must be high on confidence given the manner of yesterday’s triumph.