The spongy pitch at the M Chinaswamy Stadium was a surprise alright. It took the foreign-batsmen element out of the equation until Mumbai Indians' Keiron Pollard, who probably sees Shane Watson as a red rag being waved at him, threw the kitchen sink at the Aussie bowler and in the process, blasted his way through the Royal Challengers Bangalore's attempted blockade.
It was unusual for the Karnataka State Cricket Association to come up with such a pitch, especially for an IPL match where high scoring games have been the order of the day. Barring the Indian batsmen, probably used to combating the intricacies of such pitches, the others, including fabulous stroke-makers like Chris Gayle, AB de Villiers, Watson and even Pollard, till Watson came on to the bowling scene, struggled.
The M Chinnaswamy Stadium has two main pitches: One bound together by the malleable Kakinada clay and the other by the hard and firm Mandya clay. The latter encourages strokeplay, while the former could be fine-tuned to the curator's desire.
On Wednesday night, the teams were offered the spongy one where the ball would not come on to the bat and stroke-making was decidedly difficult. The ploy would have worked fine if the RCB bowlers had bowled with a more discipline. Instead, they sent down eight wides and two no-balls and this extravagant bowling, coupled with Pollard's relentless flogging, did the team in.
Put in to bat, RCB opted to open with Gayle and Virat Kohli, instead of the more productive KL Rahul-Kohli combine. The move was probably based on the reckoning that the new ball would come on to the bat and hence provide better opportunities for Gayle's shotmaking.
But what it also ensured was that RCB could not take the quick ones and twos at the start. Deprived of two possible singles and rotation of strike in the opening over, Kohli (7 off 7 balls), who usually likes to play himself in with neat placements and smart running, was compelled to try and force the pace. And, on this pitch, which needed some getting used to, it proved disastrous.
Additionally, Mumbai Indians fielded brilliantly in the opening overs; their in-fielders dived and threw themselves around to cut off precious runs and built pressure on the batsmen.
Gayle (5 off 6 balls), AB de Villiers (24 off 27 balls), Watson (15 off 14 balls) all perished in an attempt to further the scoring rate. RCB's inability to get some momentum going with their batting can be gauged by the run of scores: 25/2 at the end of six powerplay overs, 50/2 in the 10th over, 76/3 in 14.
It was only in the last six overs that RCB came to terms with the pitch and smashed the ball around to accumulate 75 crucial runs. Rahul (68 not-out off 53 balls, 3x4, 4x6) was once again at the forefront of this recovery. Notching up his fourth half-century of the season, he and Sachin Baby (25 not-out off 13 balls, 2x4, 2x6) hammered 53 runs in the final 27 deliveries of the innings.
The late flourish gave RCB a fighting chance of making a match of it.
However, the home team's bowling, their bugbear this year, was again a mixed bag. While left-arm medium pacer Sreenath Arvind (4-0-23-1) and leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal (4-0-16-1) bowled extremely well and kept a check on the batsmen, the same could not be said of a couple of others, particularly Chris Jordon. The English fast bowler was expected to be the spearhead of the RCB bowling. But he has looked in such terrible form that it is difficult to believe that he is the same bowler who fired those deadly yorkers for England in the ICC T20 World Championship just a couple of months ago.
Jordon was clobbered for 37 runs from three wayward overs, which included a no-ball and two wides. RCB's closing overs bowling by Jordon and Watson were so tardy that MI, who were required to get a stiff 68 runs from six overs, did it in 4.4.
Pollard, who seemed to have a measure of Watson in the personal needle between them, hammered him for two sixes and three boundaries and left him crushed.
The pity was that RCB had fielded out of their skin and didn't deserve to lose. ABD and Stuart Binny took sensational catches and even the others were in their elements. But MI's greater depth carried the day.
RCB now have just eight points from 10 matches and must win all their remaining games to entertain any chance of making the semi-final grade.
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Updated Date: May 12, 2016 13:37:11 IST