The first six overs of the Mumbai Indians innings went perfectly to script. They had been inserted to bat on a benign deck and after first powerplay overs had raced along to 57 for no loss. Even the attention to detail in those powerplay overs was so precise. In the first two overs, Rohit Sharma and Quinton de Kock assessed the conditions, restricted any fate of attempting a big shot and trusted their defence. Then the pair exploded by scoring 18, 14 and 12 respectively of the next three overs to seize the momentum. All the stars seemed to be aligning and it looked like a vintage batting display was on the cards.
In the end, Mumbai posted a competitive score of 187, but still managed to lose the match by four wickets. It wasn't like they bowled poorly either, so where did it go wrong? Firstly, one cannot discount the calibre of Jos Buttler. The dynamic batsman was top notch, but it was the Mumbai Indians' inability to apply the finishing touch with the bat and ball that had cost them the match.
After the openers had added 97 in first 11 overs and with the hitting prowess of Hardik Pandya and Kieron Pollard perhaps Mumbai were guilty of not pushing hard enough through the middle overs. Between 11 and 15 overs, Mumbai only managed 29 runs for the loss of one wicket. While it is difficult to point the finger at Pollard, his innings of six from 12 balls will not go unnoticed by the coaching staff.
Had Mumbai stated their assault earlier then they could have put Rajasthan bowling unit under more pressure. Coming into the match, the Royals were ranked as the worst bowling side in the overs 16-20 in terms of economy-rate, so had Mumbai attacked earlier there was potentially a chance that they could have posted a score beyond 200.
However, in the post-match presentation, Rohit Sharma stated 187 was an adequate total. "Without dew, 175+ is a good score and we had a decent score to defend, but we failed to take early wickets".
Rohit was one of the reasons Mumbai failed to make early inroads. The Mumbai captain dropped a sharp chance off Ajinkya Rahane in the first over of the innings. Rahane had yet to open his account at the time and ended up adding a further 37 from 18 balls to give the Royals a breezy start. It was such small moments that summed up Mumbai's inability to cash in at the crucial phases of the game.
Twenty20 cricket is dependent on luck and Ishan Kishan at the press conference after the match stated the same. "It was few lucky shots and some good batting that went against us tonight."
But the good teams make their own luck. Mumbai dropped three more catches, albeit each one of them was tough. In all the tight matches that Mumbai have won this season, they have managed to seize one of the tough opportunities.
Apart from all the misfortunes, Alzarri Joseph had a poor outing with the ball. Perhaps it was the nature of the pitch or the pedigree of the opponent. But a surface that was showing signs of holding up, it was bizarre that the pacer didn't attempt one slower ball.
At the toss, Rohit had stated that spinners generally tend to get more out of the surface during a 40-over match. If that was the case then it was difficult to understand why an experienced campaigner and the master disguiser of the slower cutter in Lasith Malinga was not part of the playing XI.
In hindsight, Mumbai should have accelerated earlier, they should have taken at least two of the catches that they spilled and also picked the playing XI based on conditions rather than basing it on recent past. But such is the nature of the T20 game that minor lapses ended up costing matches and one over can change the course of the match. Joseph was smoked for 28 runs in one over, but eight of those runs were from edges from perfectly executed yorkers. The over had changed the match.
Mumbai will learn that playing 85 percent does not guarantee victory and it is important not to get complacent. The fact that it was one splendid innings that took the game away will hurt, as will the fact that the opposition was missing Ben Stokes. But that is the nature of the T20 game and Mumbai had lost due to minor mishaps that can be fixed overnight.
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