After a few overs, one could sense the Mumbai Indians felt more comfortable in Delhi than in Chennai. Since the start of the IPL, the reigning champions have played their opening five matches on the slow Chennai pitches. The surfaces have not been ideal for batting and the free flowing Mumbai batsman had not been able to chalk up the runs like previous seasons.
But on Thursday afternoon at the Feroz Shah Kotla, Mumbai looked like the dominant force that had won the previous two IPLs. A large factor was due to the nature of the track. By no means does Kotla have the bounce and pace like the Wankhede Stadium, but it was certainly more conducive to batting and pace bowling than Chennai.
Also the fact it was only the second game to be played in Delhi meant there was decent carry at the start of the match, allowing Jasprit Burmah and Trent Boult to set the tone. Tactically, for the first time this season, Mumbai had Bumrah bowl two overs up front. The first four overs laid the foundation as Rajasthan Royals could only conjure 20 runs.
The Royals batsman did cash in through the middle overs, but one could sense Mumbai never panicked. It was like they felt at home on this ground and on this pitch. They knew even a total of 190 could be chased down and their batsmen will prosper.
Eventually the Royals could only salvage 171, thanks to some brilliant death bowling by Boult and Burmah. They're arguably the best death overs pairing largely due to their ability to execute yorkers under pressure. Hence on more placid batting tracks the two become more effective in restricting the run flow. On Thursday afternoon, Rajasthan could only manage 31 off the last four overs.
The initial four overs and the last four had curtailed Rajasthan from reaching a score in excess of 190, a total that would have been at par on a small ground and placid pitch. It was evident that on flat pitches, Mumbai is the best bowling line-up in the competition. Their defensive skills are among the elite and the move to Delhi had assisted the team in playing the brand of cricket that had brought them plenty of success.
Quinton de Kock certainly felt more at home with the ball skidding on to his willow. The left-hander had his best outing in the tournament scoring a breezy 70 off 50 balls. The pitch allowed him to hit the ball on the rise through the offside, flick balls off the stumps through the leg-side and unleash his powerful pull shot. De Kock’s rapid starts have been an integral part of Mumbai’s success and with the Royals stocked up with fast bowlers, it only made his life easier.
Once Mumbai got off to rapid start it was always going to be difficult to rail them in. De Kock knew that this was a pitch where spinners weren’t going to trouble him and he could continue to loft the ball with ease. Krunal Pandya, promoted to No 4, didn’t have to muscle the ball, just had to rely on timing. Once the runs started to flow it was the old confident Mumbai.
Kieron Pollard’s finishing touches was another indication they were delighted to be playing on a good batting surface. The short boundaries also favoured the Mumbai Indians. In the previous two seasons they had hit more sixes that any other team. A large part of their success has been built around the power-hitting and with players able to hit through the line, their batting looked even more formidable.
It was a crunch match for Mumbai, they had to start winning matches and no doubt the pitch had assisted them in feeling more at home. “Playing the conditions is very important. We knew that we’re going to play on good pitches after Chennai. This was a good pitch,” said Rohit Sharma after the win.
De Kock was named the Man of the Match for his blistering knock, but it was the smile and what he said at the presentation that summed up the mood in the Mumbai Indians camp. “To be totally honest, this is a much better wicket in general than Chennai.” It is clear Mumbai are happy to be in the capital and if the surface remains true then the 2020 champions are likely to discover their almighty form.
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