As Rohit Sharma calmly drove the penultimate ball of the match, a low full toss from Shane Watson, for a boundary through extra cover and mid-off, the Royal Challengers Bangalore players on the field froze, almost turning into statues.
It took a good few seconds for the players in red to yank themselves out of the dejection that has gripped them. Whatever they do, they simply cannot seem to win in this season of the Indian Premier League (IPL).
What was even more striking, however, was that Mumbai's win did not spark off wild celebrations. Neither among the players nor among the Wankhede crowd. Yes, there was the customary embrace between Rohit and Hardik Pandya, who were there at the end to guide their team home, and there was the customary waving of the flags and some show of euphoria in the stands, but it never went overboard.
Evidently, a Mumbai win, by this time, doesn't surprise too many. Rohit's boys have been in scorching form in the tournament and are expected to turn up on the field and go home victorious every time, come hell or high water, at least at the Wankhede.
So, as the Mumbai Indians became the first team to book a berth in the playoffs with a five-wicket win over RCB on Monday, there was a sense of quiet satisfaction. This was Mumbai's fifth win out of six matches at the Wankhede this year, the only loss being when they fell short by a mere three runs against their neighbours, the Rising Pune Supergiant.
Mumbai's tally of eight wins from ten matches catapulted them to the top of the table. Interestingly, six of those eight wins have come while chasing, and, if you consider that Mumbai had originally batted second against Gujarat Lions last Saturday at Rajkot before the match went into the super over, you would know for a fact that Mumbai is a crackerjack of a team when it comes to chasing.
There was not a lot of celebration, also, perhaps because Mumbai is preserving it all for the playoffs and possibly, the final. While exiting the Wankhede on Monday, the confidence among the home crowd of their team playing the title round could not be missed – and of, in fact, repeating their success of 2013 and 2015, when they won the coveted IPL crown.
Against RCB on Monday, the match did go down to the last over. Mumbai had things under control throughout, right from the time they restricted the visitors to 162. Though the RCB bowlers tried hard and did not let Mumbai run away with the game, Rohit and company did not look one bit hassled.
They suffered an early blow when Parthiv Patel was sent packing on the first ball of the innings, for a golden duck. But then, Jos Buttler and Nitish Rana added 61 runs for the second wicket and wrested the initiative back from RCB.
Rohit joined Rana at the fall of Buttler's wicket and from then on it was the Rohit-show all throughout. Mumbai lost a few more wickets, but Rohit played a captain's knock, regaling the Wankhede crowd with some majestic shots.
He scored a 37-ball 56, and what made the innings all the more valuable was that he stayed till the end and ensured that his side got over the line. He could not do so against Pune, in spite of scoring a half-century. That match ended in a bit of a controversy, with a 'wide' call in the last over going Pune's way. Rohit ended up arguing with the
Rohit ended up arguing with the umpire and was fined 50 percent of his match fee for doing so. But, on Monday, against RCB, things were different. It was Rohit's day.
What is great news for Mumbai is that their talisman and one of the pillars in batting, Rohit, is finally starting to get among the runs, at a time when it matters the most – the crunch last leg of the tournament.
He has had a long layoff, forced by the injury he sustained while playing for India in the limited overs series against New Zealand last year, and has had a string of low scores in the IPL. But with two superb fifties now, he is showing glimpses of his old form and charm. Rohit would also have been buoyed by the fact that he got to the 4,000 IPL runs mark in this match.
In the first innings, quality bowling by Mitchell McClenaghan had limited RCB to a manageable total. The big New Zealand pacer gave away 34 runs, while taking three wickets, including two in the last over, and was well supported by the rest of the bowlers.
Two of the stars of the Mumbai bowling line-up – masters of the yorker – Lasith Malinga and Jasprit Bumrah, got only a wicket amongst them, but did not go for a lot of runs. When you consider the fact that players of the quality of Harbhajan Singh and Mitchell Johnson did not feature in this match, you get a sense of the depth and strength of the Mumbai bowling unit.
For RCB, a number of batsmen got starts – AB de Villiers, Kedar Jadhav and Virat Kohli himself – but failed to make them count. In the end, it was a quickfire 35 from Pawan Negi that took RCB to the total that they got, which was a bit under par.
The Wankhede pitch, which has been a bit slow this season, ensured that Mumbai would have to earn their runs, which they did in the end. A strong outfit is one that has the depth and ability to land punches even after taking the first blow, and the Mumbai batting line-up showed on Monday that they have that ability.
With Mumbai having qualified for the playoffs, one expects Kolkata Knight Riders to join them there soon. It has really been a game of musical chairs between Mumbai and Kolkata at the top of the table all through the competition so far.
Defending champions Sunrisers Hyderabad are expected to be another entrant in the playoffs, but the fight for the fourth and final spot in the knockouts may really go down to the wire between Pune and Kings XI Punjab.
Pune just got their noses in front after the win over Gujarat on Monday, but Punjab has played a game less. So, things are getting exciting as we near the last stretch of IPL 2017, and the Mumbai contingent would have had a good night's sleep, happy at the fact that Rohit is getting his mojo back.
Published Date: May 02, 2017 01:20 pm | Updated Date: May 02, 2017 01:38 pm