Another fiery 90 from KL Rahul went in vain as Mumbai sneaked through by three runs to retain their hopes of qualifying to the playoffs. Jasprit Bumrah, the architect of Mumbai Indians’ miraculous comeback, picked out Rahul, the sole man standing between Mumbai and victory, in the penultimate over to draw curtains on Kings XI's hopes. Kings XI needed just 42 in the final four overs with nine wickets in hand but as it turned out two of them — both bowled by Bumrah — went for just 10 runs and yielded three wickets. Over to the moments of the match.
Unpredictable Ashwin’s latest bunny out of the hat
“All players you think are going to open will play in middle order and all the middle-order batsmen will open. I will try and stay as unpredictable as possible,” Ravichandran Ashwin had quipped after he was named Kings XI Punjab's skipper for the 2018 season.
After promoting himself to No 3 on a failed experiment few nights back, Ashwin was back to his unpredictable best when he sent in Axar Patel ahead of Yuvraj Singh and Manoj Tiwary.
The veteran southpaw, Yuvraj, hasn't been in great touch this season but once he was brought into the XI, Ashwin’s decision to not back him to fire with Kings XI needing 38 in 19 balls was unusual. But hey, you need to be unpredictable!
However, as it turned out, Yuvraj and Axar both appeared seriously out of touch — although Axar did manage to hit a full toss for six — and undid the hard work Rahul had done for close to 19 overs in the innings.
KL does a KP
Such has been KL Rahul’s insane form this season that he has had a world of time to play each ball and an array of shots to choose from for each delivery. He has time and again been Kings XI's sole fighter, single-handedly taking them to the cusp of victory with close to zilch support from his teammates.
Wednesday's knock at the Wankhede turned out to be another one of those but on sheer entertainment basis Rahul’s knock was gala time for meme and GIF creators. With the required rate close to 10 an over, Rahul decided the time was ripe to take on Ben Cutting, who had barely bowled in the tournament.
He smashed a short ball through square leg before going the Kevin Pietersen way and switching his stance next ball to send another back of a length delivery over third man for four. A dazed Rohit Sharma appeared clueless in the face of the onslaught and could only hope Cutting would get it right next ball. He didn't. Another short ball followed and Rahul responded with another switch hit, this time going over a vacant slip cordon for four.
Aptly, Pietersen was in the commentary box at the time and was particularly pleased with Rahul’s versatility at the crease.
Bumrah goes boom, boom!
The seventeenth over of the run chase would be unforgettable for Kings XI Punjab for Bumrah chose to wreck their small kitty party with a devastating over that accounted for two wickets and left KL Rahul in the company of some partners who hadn't seen the sweet spot of the bat since the start of IPL.
With Aaron Finch and Rahul going in full swing in a run chase of 187, Mumbai needed a piece of magic to get back into the game. The partnership was worth 111 and threatened to send Mumbai packing in front of their home fans. However, Rohit turned to his trusted wingman, Bumrah, and the seamer repaid the faith with a couple of tremendous overs.
In the first of his two overs, he had Finch skying a catch to Hardik Pandya in the deep and followed it up with Marcus Stoinis’ wicket off a terrific bouncer. The four run over pegged back Kings XI's hopes and the double wicket meant that all pressure was on Rahul to do the bulk of the scoring.
To compound matters for Kings XI Punjab, Bumrah returned in the penultimate over to bowl a brilliant over, conceding a mere six runs of it and getting rid of the big fish, KL Rahul, midway through the over.
The bread and butter knuckle ball
Andrew Tye seems to be the most underrated T20 bowler going around. With 24 wickets in his bag, six more than the next best, and three four-wicket hauls in the last four games, Tye has been phenomenal for Kings XI Punjab. T20 bowlers are known to rely on slower balls, cutters, slow bouncers and wide yorkers to restrict batsmen but Tye’s bread and butter delivery seems to be the knuckle ball.
A delivery quite difficult to master, the knuckle ball is usually delivered with the index and middle fingers folded behind the ball. Extracting control over the delivery can be an arduous task but apparently Tye seems to have nailed the algorithm.
Of the very first ball he bowled in the match, Tye delivered the knuckle ball that had Evin Lewis baffled and uprooted his off pole. The ball, pitched around off-stump, moved back in wobbling through the air all the while, and pegged back the stumps.
The bro moment
Even the Mumbai Indians fans would have felt sorry for KL Rahul, who stood as the lone pillar for Kings XI Punjab and fought till his last breath to keep his side in the game. But Pandya stole hearts when he walked up to Rahul post the match and switched shirts with him in an encouraging on-field camaraderie.
As though to cheer up Rahul, Pandya was seen making jokes and even helping him put on the Mumbai Indians’ jersey. From the Harbhajan-Sreesanth fiasco during another Kings XI Punjab-Mumbai Indians encounter to this moment of brotherhood, the IPL has come a long, long way.
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Four-time winners Mumbai Indians, two-time champions Chennai Super Kings, Royal Challengers Bangalore and 2020 finalists Delhi Capitals were placed in the top-four when IPL was suspended in May due to COVID cases in its bio-bubble.
While Kohli has maintained that he would remain captain in the other two formats, one can't say with absolute certainty that he will be India's 50-over skipper going into the 2023 World Cup at home.
"If India are looking to groom a new captain, then KL Rahul can be looked at. He has performed well."