Lasith Malinga was originally not supposed to be available for Mumbai Indians for the first six matches of the Indian Premier League (IPL) this season. He had to play a domestic 50-over tournament in Sri Lanka to be eligible for selection for the World Cup in England. Having rubbed the administrators on the wrong side throughout his career, he was not keen to take any risk ahead of what could possibly be his last big international 50-over event. There, however, was some intervention by BCCI, which led to SLC releasing Malinga immediately for the IPL. He reached Bangalore on time for Mumbai’s second game.
Jasprit Bumrah challenging ‘Chiku Bhaiya’ (Virat Kohli) in a television advertisement as a part of IPL’s promotional campaign had garnered a lot of eyeballs. But it did not look to be a reality so early after he hurt his shoulder during Mumbai’s defeat against Delhi Capitals. He joined the team in Bangalore, and his availability for the game was confirmed only the night before.
As it turned out, Malinga and Bumrah, bowling together for the first time since IPL 2017 final, combined to produce two high quality overs to give Mumbai a six-run win over Royal Challengers Bangalore at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium on Thursday.
With 22 needed off the last two overs and AB de Villiers in great touch, Bangalore looked set to chase down 188. But Bumrah had different plans. He mixed his variations well to pick up the wicket of Colin de Grandhomme and give Malinga 16 runs to defend.
Remember Malinga had gone unsold in the auctions before the 2018 IPL and was later signed up by Mumbai as a part of the support staff. He was playing in the IPL after a break of one season and had everything to prove. When Shivam Dube hit the first ball of the last over for a six, it looked like Malinga had been exposed. Instead, he cannily mixed up his deliveries that also left de Villiers with little option but to manufacture shots that were not productive.
Dube had to hit a six off the last ball to take the match into the Super Over, but Malinga did not give him any kind of room to swing his arm. Mumbai, of course, were lucky as S Ravi, the umpire, failed to spot the no-ball, but that is besides the point.
Malinga, the tutor, and Bumrah, the student, had yet again joined forces to make Mumbai look serious. The partnership was missing last year for which they failed to make it to the playoffs, and in the first game this season where Delhi, batting first, scored 52 runs off the last three overs.
Malinga bowled the second over in Bangalore's innings, and was spot on with his variations, pitching the ball up, finding the yorkers at ease and conceding just three runs. The first signs of a master back at work in the world's best league after a gap of 677 days.
Bangalore though made runs against the other bowlers, which included Kohli hitting three consecutive fours off Bumrah in the Power Play, to reach 82 for 2 in ten overs.
With Kohli and de Villiers set, it was Bangalore’s game to win and they became favourites when de Villiers effortlessly flicked Malinga for a six to end the 12th over.
With 75 needed off 42 balls and two of the best batsmen in supreme touch, Rohit Sharma had no option but to bring back Bumrah for the 14th over. That is when the first seed for Mumbai’s victory was planted as Bumrah got Kohli caught in the deep off a short delivery.
It was a well-directed bouncer, too close to Kohli’s body to play the pull shot. Kohli was visibly disappointed, telling himself that he should have gone for the upper cut instead of the pull as he returned towards the dugout.
Bangalore’s lack of batting depth is well known, but with de Villiers in fine form, it was a matter of others batting around him after his 49-run stand with Kohli ended. When the former South Africa captain hit Malinga for a four and two sixes to end the 16th over, Mumbai looked out of the game.
That is when Bumrah once again made a difference. He had Shimron Hetmeyer caught at cover and then kept Grandhomme quiet as the 17th over went for just one run.
That put the pressure back on Bangalore, but de Villiers negated it with 18 runs from the next over bowled by Pandya. At that point, it was a game of cat and mouse, as Bangalore needed 22 off the last two overs. It was not to happen as Bumrah and Malinga together conceded just one six off those 12 deliveries.
Bumrah’s two balls in the 19th over to de Villiers pretty much summarised his red hot form. First a yorker outside off stump and then a sharp short delivery that de Villiers failed to connect. Bumrah finished with 3 for 20, conceding just five runs in his last two overs along with picking up two wickets. Malinga, on the other hand, was expensive with analysis of 4-0-47-0 but made an impact when it mattered the most.
Their bowling partnership at the death was a stark contrast to that of Bangalore, who had Mumbai under the pump at 147 for 6 in 17 overs but gave away 40 runs after that.
Mumbai’s victory gives them a good start, but they would know that it was a case of touch and go. They were clearly 20 runs short because of a middle-order collapse, and not everyday would they be rescued by Malinga and Bumrah.