|Pollard bowled a brilliant last over, to win it for Mumbai|
Mumbai Indians (MI) kept their hopes of making it to the playoffs alive, overcoming a really strong Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) side by 5 runs in Match 51 of this season’s Pepsi Indian Premier League (IPL).
It turned out to be an enthralling game of cricket in the end, with both sides making mistakes throughout their respective batting and bowling innings and the crowd at the Wankhede Stadium surely got their moneys worth.
It was a must win game for Mumbai while Kolkata, with 15 points to their name, were not in a do-or-die situation.
Gautam Gambhir won the toss and chose to bowl first on a slightly two-paced Wankhede track. The visitors brought in Shakib Al Hasan for Brad Hogg and Morne Morkel came in place of Johan Botha, as the two changes in personnel for the Knight Riders.
Mumbai, as we have seen for much of this season already, simply do not have too many resources to call upon, and ended up bringing Vinay Kumar back into the playing XI, at the expense of Jasprit Bumrah, who failed to harness the opportunity he was handed against the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) four nights back.
The hosts started off their innings at a good clip, with Parthiv Patel leading the way and getting those boundaries early on in the innings. Lendl Simmons never got his timing right on the night, and was dismissed after scoring just 14 (16).
Parthiv played a loose shot after looking so good for his 21 (13), and Mumbai were in a spot of bother when their openers fell in subsequent overs of their innings.
Things didn’t get better thereafter, either, with Ambati Rayudu playing a careless shot and holding out at long-off; Rohit Sharma batted really well while he was in the middle, scoring 30 (21) and played a huge role in steadying the MI ship along with Kieron Pollard.
The Mumbai batsman, however, was dismissed by an absolute peach from Sunil Narine, who didn’t threaten too much otherwise, as he was taken for 38 off his four overs.
With the home side reeling at 79/4 in the 12th over, it was down to Pollard to strike some lusty blows and conjure up a total somewhere close to 150; however, it was the other way around last night, with Pollard struggling to find his touch and Hardik Pandya playing the innings of an aggressor.
Pandya’s innings was a real mature one, as he soaked up the pressure early on in the innings and went for the boundaries only after the 15th over.
The home side scored 72 off the last five overs, finishing with 171/4 at the end of 20 overs. It was a competitive total that would have made Mumbai happier than KKR, for whom it was a crime to concede so many runs.
172, though, was not a big target by any means, and with the kind of firepower and depth the visitors’ batting lineup exuded, you had to fancy them to get the victory and put MI out of the reckoning for the playoffs.
However, it really didn’t pan out that way and Mumbai’s bowlers did enough to keep their side in it throughout Kolkata’s innings.
They kept chipping away at the wickets, though the trio of Yusuf Pathan 52 (38), Gambhir 38 (29) and Shakib 23 (15) kept hitting the boundaries and never allowed that required run-rate to jump over 10.
Therefore, it was pressure on Mumbai, whose bowling attack, apart from Lasith Malinga, flattered to deceive: Harbhajan Singh had an ordinary outing; Vinay didn’t threaten his former IPL side, and was quite lucky to dismiss Shakib; Jagadeesha Suchith just bowled the two overs, but got the crucial wicket of Gambhir, and Mitchell McClenaghan didn’t get his lines right, though he dismissed Suryakumar Yadav at a crucial juncture in the game.
The home side had to thank Pollard for the way he came and delivered that final over, winning the game for his side and keeping their hopes of making it to the playoffs alive.
In hindsight, what did we learn from a decent MI performance? Read on…
Mumbai, without a shadow of doubt, got out of jail
Mumbai definitely felt the pressure of a must win game last night, and it had an impeding effect on their overall performance.
They got over the line in the end, but not by their own brilliance.
I have repeatedly felt that Mumbai’s strongest suit was their batting, and therefore, should be injecting an extra batsman in their playing XI, instead of Vinay, who simply has not done well.
Pandya did bail them out of trouble yesterday, but what if Pollard was dismissed by the barrage of short-deliveries he had to deal with from the KKR bowlers? Or, what if the youngster did something rash, in a bid to up the scoring rate?
An extra batsman in such a situation can always be advantageous, but the MI think-tank has simply been hesitant to go for an extra batsman after the initial few games of the ongoing season. Mumbai’s team selection was their first mistake on the night.
It has been so surprising to see Mumbai drop as many catches as they have done this season: the likes of Harbhajan usually pose a safe pair of hands, but has dropped many a catch already this IPL.
Yesterday it was the turn of Pandya to put down a dolly from Gambhir, who wanted to hit Suchith out of the attack. Thankfully for Pandya and Mumbai, the Delhi Southpaw played a reckless shot in the very next delivery and threw his wicket away; that wicket came at a time when KKR, with Pathan and Gambhir in the middle, threatened to take the game away from the home side. Gambhir’s wicket was the second time that MI got a reprieve last night.
On another day, it could have cost the home side. But they need to reflect on these aspects of their game before taking on Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) on Sunday.
The home side didn’t get their strategy right with the bat
Having been put into bat by the visitors, the onus was on Mumbai to set a target in excess of 180 at the very least.
KKR though, with their potent bowling attack, were never going to make it easy for the hosts.
Gambhir rotated his bowlers well, and they responded promptly to their skipper’s tactics.
Mumbai batsmen – Simmons, Parthiv and Rayudu, in particular – gave you the impression that they were trying too hard and wanted to dominate the KKR attack, which was not the right ploy.
MI, throughout this IPL, have done well when they have batted first and not lost many wickets in the first half of their innings.
However, for some reason, last night they didn’t want to stay in the crease for long and thereby put pressure on the KKR bowlers to dismiss them; instead, they gifted them with wickets and played it into the visitors’ hands, until Pandya and Pollard got into a partnership of sorts for the fifth wicket.
Rayudu, who has done really well over the last five games, was a major disappointment for me. He simply didn’t need to play such a stroke when his side had lost 2 wickets for less than 50 runs, and he joined Rohit in the middle only five balls earlier.
Maybe MI felt that, with Rohit holding fort at the other end, one batsman in every partnership needed to be aggressive and concentrate on scoring quick runs, but the shots they played were reckless and I don’t think it was the right way to do it.
Pollard-Pandya partnership turned the game on its head
Continuing on from the last point, Mumbai lost three wickets with just 47 on the board and had 81 balls more to play in their innings.
Pollard walked into bat at No.5, and probably was the crucial batsman in his partnership with Rohit. The hard-hitting West Indian is at his lethal best when he doesn’t have to worry about preserving his wicket, but it was not a viable scenario for him to come in.
Rohit did bat well while he was there in the middle but, again, he got out at totally the wrong stage of MI’s innings that just about started gathering momentum.
The scorecard read 79/4 in the 12th over when the MI skipper was castled by Narine, with an unplayable carom ball that was bowled at the right pace, length and line, giving no chance for Rohit to survive.
It was a precarious situation for the home side that was fighting for its life, and lost by far the most significant batsman in the side.
Pandya, though, came in and stemmed the flow of wickets, which was the marquee feature of his innings last night.
He scored 4 runs from his first 6 balls, and his first boundary came in 7th ball he faced. The period from 12th to the 15th or even the 16th over, was going to be crucial to Mumbai, who had to ensure that they didn’t lose one more wicket. And Pandya and Pollard were sensible in the way they managed it.
Now, while Pandya played ‘the’ innings that propelled Mumbai’s score to 171, let us not forget the anchor role played to perfection by Pollard at the other end. He didn’t score too many runs, and ended up with only 33 (38), but his presence in the middle was crucial to Mumbai and made sure that KKR couldn’t breathe easy.
It was that dimension of this partnership which helped Pandya to feed off the situation and use it to his, as well as Mumbai’s, advantage.
Pollard and Pandya put together a 92-run partnership in 50 balls for the 5th wicket, and took MI to a total that they could compete with. It was a pivotal partnership in the overall context of the game, and it is safe to say KKR didn’t see that coming.
Rohit’s captaincy was audacious and spot on
It can be difficult for a captain when his side is relying on one or two bowlers heavily, and the others in the bowling attack are contributing very little to the team’s cause.
Rohit has been in that situation on many an occasion this season; he has had to be precise and clever with his bowling changes, and yesterday, in particular, he shone in that aspect of his leadership.
He didn’t have a big total to play with and had to go for wickets against a very long KKR batting lineup.
Rohit once again relied on Malinga for wickets, and the unorthodox Sri Lankan quickie bowled 2 of his overs right at the beginning of the innings.
McClenaghan too, bowled 2 of his overs at the beginning of the innings, which meant that two of MI’s best bowlers completed half their quota of overs well before the halfway mark in KKR’s innings and more importantly, hadn’t picked up a single wicket.
Therefore, the likes of Vinay and Suchith had to be relied on more than in the former games, while wickets were also expected of Harbhajan, who had two ordinary games back-to-back against Chennai Super Kings (CSK) and the Royal Challengers.
The Knight Riders did well to not lose wickets during the early part of their innings, which put extreme pressure on the home side.
Rohit kept looking for wickets and his bowlers, though fortunate, responded with crucial blows of Robin Uthappa and Manish Pandey, who was run out by Simmons, both the wickets falling in the sixth over of the visitors’ innings.
Even after the fall of the two Karnataka batsmen in the same over, Rohit didn’t relent and kept bowling Harbhajan from one end. The Turbanator finished his 4 overs on the trot and, as aforementioned, didn’t bowl as he would have liked, finishing with figures of 4-0-31-1.
Suchith picked up Gambhir in his second over, and the 11th over of KKR’s innings, but the visitors still had Shakib, Andre Russell and S Yadav in the hut and were well in control of chase too, needing a mere 84 from the last 9 overs.
Pathan stood tall and though he didn’t play as explosively as he usually does, his presence in the middle was crucial in the overall context of the game.
Rohit, therefore, had to bring McClenaghan and Malinga back for their respective second spells as early as the 14th and 16th over.
At the other end, he was being let down by Vinay, who, even though he picked up Shakib’s wicket, was expensive in his last over – KKR’s 17th – which went for 14 runs and got the equation firmly in favor of the visitors.
The decision to bowl Malinga in the 16th over paid off, and he picked up Russell for just 2, despite conceding 8 runs.
McClenaghan bowled the 18th over and dismissed S Yadav, who threatened to kill MI’s hopes of making it to the playoffs. He had scored 11 from his first 4 deliveries, including a couple of boundaries, but the New Zealand seamer picked him up in the first delivery of his final over.
It was then that it got a bit dicey for Rohit, who had to search for a bowler, apart from Suchith and Pandya, to bowl one of the two overs – 19th and 20th.
He brought Malinga on for the penultimate over, which cost 9 runs for the home side, and it was massive in the context of the game. Rohit, though, didn’t have an option, as he only had 21 runs to play with in the final two overs.
Instead of going to Pandya or Suchith for the final over, Rohit took the gamble of turning to Pollard, who, it has to be said, was extremely calm under pressure. He got Pathan’s wicket in the very first delivery of his over, and it felt like the game had come under the home side’s control.
However, in the next delivery Umesh Yadav scored a boundary thanks to some flimsy fielding from Malinga at short fine-leg, and the game was not over yet, with KKR needing 8 runs from the final 4 deliveries.
Pollard was calmness personified, though, and bowled brilliantly to Piyush Chawla, who couldn’t put bat to ball in almost every one of the deliveries he faced in his innings last night.
While you could complement the bowlers for performing in the manner they did, Rohit’s captaincy was rather commendable and his tactical decisions proved critical to Mumbai’s victory.
The Indians once again showed their adeptness in winning a close game
Mumbai came out on top in what happened to be a very close game to call. It was far from a clinical performance from Rohit’s men, but, in crucial moments of the game, they held their nerve and continued to pick wickets.
Pollard – in his post-match interview – mentioned that it was important for them to get over the line, no matter how they managed it, and the manner of yesterday’s victory will give them a great deal of confidence going into the final league game that, without a smidgen of skepticism, will have a lot riding on it too.
MI still need a few results to go their way in order for them to make it to the playoffs. However, having won yesterday’s game, their confidence must be quite high, heading into the game against SRH on Sunday. They are yet to get their team combination right, but if their batting can fire, Mumbai will fancy their chances of winning that last game and hopefully, other results going their way, make it to the playoffs for the sixth consecutive season.