Delhi Daredevils' team full of young talents was the talk of the town when Mumbai Indians came calling at the Ferozshah Kotla on Saturday. Led by Rishabh Pant and Sanju Samson — who showed some of the cleanest hitting of a cricket ball — they made easy work of Gujarat Lions' target of 209, chasing it down with 15 balls to spare in their previous game. This was on the back of another successful chase of 189 against Sunrisers Hyderabad in the game before.
So with a host of young Indian players in their ranks doing well, there were quite a few in the country rooting for the Daredevils against the leaders Mumbai Indians and hoping they get more of what they have been treated to in the last few matches.
Mumbai Indians though are seasoned campaigners in the IPL, and having won the title twice in the past know exactly how it's done. They have faced teams in red-hot form in the past and turned them over. However, this game was much more important for the hosts involved in a tight chase for a playoff spot, compared to Mumbai, who had all but qualified after a marvellous run in the competition so far.
Their comfortable position in the table allowed them to experiment a bit ahead of the playoffs. Mumbai went with West Indian batsman Lendl Simmons in place of Jos Buttler, who is set to leave the team for national duty before the playoffs start.
Simmons had been a regular feature in the Mumbai Indians side in the past, but this season it was the first time he got a chance to don the shirt. The West Indian seemed at great ease against the Daredevils' bowling attack and negated the threat posed by Kagiso Rabada and Zaheer Khan early on with some aggressive strokes.
What was astonishing about that innings from Simmons was how effortlessly he played his shots. It seemed that he had been opening the innings for Mumbai from the very first game. His partnership with Parthiv Patel (79 off 52 balls) was Mumbai's second-highest opening stand this season, and just the third one over 50.
Looking at Daredevils' recent chasing exploits, the pressure was on Mumbai after losing the toss, to put up a big score on the board. Anything less than 180 could have left them feeling insecure, and that made Simmons' fearless knock even more credible.
He took the pressure off Parthiv Patel, who isn't the biggest hitter of the ball, allowing the wicket-keeper batsman to play more traditional shots, something which comes more naturally to him.
After the opening bowlers were negotiated successfully, Mumbai only had Amit Mishra to take care of. So when Parthiv Patel was dismissed, Mumbai pulled out a trump card. They promoted Kieron Pollard, a man who has had considerable success against Mishra in the past, up the order at number three.
The ploy worked. Pollard after settling in at the crease hit the leg-spinner for two sixes in an over to dent the leg-spinners' confidence. Mishra couldn't really recover from those blows and went for 9.5 runs per over. It left the Daredevils significantly handicapped for the rest of the innings, with their chief attacking threat in the middle overs struggling to keep the run-flow under control.
Another hallmark of Pollard's innings was the way he chose and targeted the bowlers. On the Ferozshah Kotla wicket, which was slightly on the slower side, the extra pace in Corey Anderson and Pat Cummins's bowling made them easier to get away. Pollard, Simmons and later Hardik Pandya went after them and both the bowlers went for over 14 runs per over.
If there was anything that would have worried Mumbai Indians going into the playoffs it would be the form of their middle order. But in the last two games, Pollard (against Dardevils) and Rohit Sharma (against Royal Challengers Bangalore) hit the kind of form they are known for, making coach Mahela Jayawardene breathe a lot easier.
A target of 213 for the Daredevils was daunting, but nobody felt in the innings break that the game was over. In fact, there was an anticipation of another spectacular chase from the Daredevils to make it three in a row.
However, those dreams were dealt a blow on the very first ball of the innings when Sanju Samson was caught in the deep off Mitchell McClenaghan's bowling.
Daredevils had began their innings in top gear against the Gujarat Lions, and never really felt the need to slow down as they decimated their bowling attack. But in Mumbai's case, the bowling attack had a lot more variety and experience. There was the exuberance of McClenaghan and Karn Sharma on one hand and the vast experience of Lasith Malinga and Harbhajan Singh on the other.
Rohit, who has been excellent in rotating his bowlers, didn't give the Daredevils' batsman a chance to get set to any particular bowler as he used four bowlers to bowl the first five. This was another Mumbai Indians ploy that worked to perfection. Each of those bowlers picked up wickets in their first overs, and the young Daredevils' top order was back in the hut for virtually nothing.
After losing five wickets inside the powerplay, there was not to be another dream chase, another fairytale innings from an Indian youngster, and most importantly an even contest.
Unlike the Mumbai Indians' batsmen who took calculated risks, Daredevils were more gung-ho in their approach. But against a matured attack like Mumbai, they needed to show the bowlers a bit more respect and play the ball on its merit. Instead they went for the spectacular from the word go, and fell short by 146 runs.
Mumbai had 27 dot balls in their innings and still managed to score 212. That's 4.3 overs of dot balls, just nine short of an entire powerplay quota. That shows how they made the most of the bad balls, while paying due respect to the good ones.
Daredevils lacked composure throughout the game, allowing Mumbai to serve them a cricketing lesson. The hosts were schooled by a thoroughly clinical Mumbai outfit who made it a men versus boys affair in the end.
All went right for the visitors on the night. Harbhajan, who came in for the injured Krunal Pandya, showed glimpses of his old self as he toyed with the Daredevils' batsmen. He finished with figures of 3/22 from his 4 overs and ensured there was no revival after the early blows.
"It gives us confidence, knowing our bench strength is strong. We always had a lot of faith in Lendl and he showed us why he is one of the best. Never in two minds, always went for his shots. A player like that gives a lot of freedom to the other guys," a visibly delighted Rohit said after the game.
Over the years, Mumbai have always left it late to book a playoff spot, but this year they have achieved it with a canter. Some wonder if they have peaked a bit too early, but having recorded the biggest win in the competition's history, they have shown that barring minor blips, this team has too much all-round quality, variety and strength in depth to suffer defeats on a regular basis.
Updated Date: May 07, 2017 09:42 AM