May 17, 2018
Mumbai hold their head
“Dimaag, dimaag, dimaag…” Rohit Sharma shouted drilling a hole in his cap as he poked his forehead with disgust. Ben Cutting had just bowled the third consecutive short of length deliveries to a rampaging KL Rahul with his short fine-leg and short thirdman within the 30-yard circle.
It was the 18th over of Kings XI Punjab’s chase and they needed 38 off 18 balls. Rahul was on 79 off 53, having produced an exhibition of controlled demolition with bat in hand for the umpteenth time this season. He swivelled and pulled the first of those hit-me deliveries to the fine-leg fence before twice showing that he wasn’t too averse to pushing the boundaries of orthodoxy despite his clean-cut reputation as a batsman, and played two reverse scoops over the short third-man for four.
The target had now come down to 24 off 13 and Rahul had moved to 92 off 57. It was the second of those that left Rohit seething and once he was done giving Cutting a piece of his mind literally, he was pointing at his feet, telling his bowler exactly where he wanted him to pitch the ball. Cutting finally got it right off the final delivery, nearly nailing the yorker to keep Rahul to a single.
Just like that though, as is the case in T20 cricket, the game had turned in the space of six deliveries. It was Rahul and Punjab who had the momentum, and with it most of the aces. Rahul also had the strike. Enter Jasprit Bumrah. India’s premier death bowler started off a wide, showing off his own nervousness at the prospect of keeping a rampaging Rahul quiet.
But much to his captain’s relief, he kept his head and his nerve to slip in a full slower delivery that deceived Rahul and had him caught at long-off. Bumrah only went for 6 in his over, leaving Mitchell McClenaghan to defend 17 off the final over.
And despite a couple of hiccups, a wide and a full-toss that Axar Patel deposited over deep mid-wicket, the burly Kiwi didn’t give his captain any reason to lose his head. On a night, he and his team had pulled themselves up into the top half of the table, McClenaghan celebrated with a couple of push-ups at the centre of Wankhede.
Punjab panic, Pollard prospers
It was a match where it was always going to come down to nerves and the mental make-up of both teams. While a loss would have certainly knocked out Mumbai, Punjab with their inferior net run-rate needed this win with equal desperation.
And perhaps they did lose the plot as well towards the end of their run-chase with a couple of bizarre decisions in terms of their batting-order—sending Axar Patel in before Yuvraj Singh and Manoj Tiwary in particular. While R Ashwin’s captaincy has won him rave reviews throughout this season, he is likely to look back at some of his bowling changes too with a tinge of disappointment. He played it safe by taking Andrew Tye off the attack after the Aussie had taken 3 wickets in his first two overs to completely derail the Mumbai innings.
He also held himself back and rather erred on the side of caution by letting Ankit Rajpoot and Marcus Stoinis finish off their quota. It allowed the out-of-form Kieron Pollard to produce the kind of knock—50 off 23 with 3 power sixes—that has kept him on Mumbai’s books for nearly a decade despite his inconsistent form.
And looking back, it was in these 5-6 overs that the hosts turned the match around and took their total into the 180+ range. It was only Tye’s brilliance in the death overs where he returned to add another wicket that kept them in check.
Tye is known popularly as “Macgyver” in the Western Australia dressing-room. It’s a moniker based on the fictional American action-hero from the 1980s who is renowned to have solved his cases with non-violence. It couldn’t have been more apt. For, there’s nothing in Tye’s bag of tricks that reeks of any form of violence. And he does end up solving most crises for the teams he plays in. They were in quite a mess too after the Mumbai openers had raced away to 37 in the first three overs. And Tye pulled them back by removing Evin Lewis with the first delivery of his spell.
The next over from Mohit Sharma incidentally went for 18. But Macgyver was back at it, slipping in two more knuckle balls to remove Ishan Kishan and Suryakumar Yadav off consecutive deliveries. By the end of his spell, the problem-solver had figures of 3/5 in his 2 overs. If only his captain had kept him going for another over. But on a day where their IPL campaigns’ hung in the balance, it was a case of making the right decision under pressure. Eventually, Mumbai just ended up making more of them.