The 10th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) is producing more twists and turns with the passage of each match, and the matches in the Saturday double-header proved just that.
While on one hand we had MS Dhoni returning to form, remaining unbeaten on 61 off 34 balls to guide Rising Pune Supergiant (RPS) home in a last-ball win, Mumbai Indians (MI) proved in the second game of the day that the format did not necessarily belong to the batsmen, defending a total as low as 142 against the Delhi Daredevils (DD) to record their sixth consecutive victory.
With 25 matches done in the ongoing tournament, MI have so far emerged as the team to beat, having won all of their matches so far barring their opening encounter against RPS. The team that has always been associated with starting off tournaments slowly has produced the most dominant set of performances, with every department in the team firing on one occasion or the other — whether it be the top-order against Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) in Indore, the lower middle-order in the superb turnaround against Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB), or the bowling unit against DD.
MI skipper Rohit Sharma was presented with a different challenge on Saturday when he lost the toss for once, and was made to bat first on a pitch that has been something of a chasers' heaven. With the dew set to increase with the passage of play, Mumbai had to put up a total in excess of 180 on the board if they were to give anything to their bowlers to defend.
The pitch on this evening however, turned out to be a bit different from the traditional one, with the spinners and the off-cutters gripping and kicking up more often than not, something that played its part in quite a few dismissals.
Parthiv Patel and Jos Buttler did get off to a decent start before the former was done in by the brilliance of league debutant Kagiso Rabada, who yorked him with a 145 kmph beauty, hitting the base of his leg stump. Buttler was a bit lucky at the start of his innings as a top-edge off his bat carried all the way to the long-stop boundary, while Delhi keeper Rishabh Pant dropped a sitter while he was batting on 11. He went on to add 17 more runs to his tally, and might have played part in guiding Mumbai to a bigger total had it not been for his run-out while trying to get a risky single.
Zaheer however, was brilliant in his captaincy thereafter. Not only did he exhibit aggressive tactics by bringing in a couple of slip fielders and a short leg, but he was pinpoint in his field placement, as was the case in the next two dismissals — Nitish Rana and Rohit sweeping straight to the man at deep backward square. At 60/4, Delhi were on top of the game, and maintained their stranglehold on the Mumbai lower middle-order for a majority of their innings. Thanks to a few boundaries in the slog over by Kieron Pollard and Hardik Pandya, Mumbai managed to reach a respectable 142, which would have earned the tag 'competitive' if not anything else.
Between the two sides, Delhi boasted of a more balanced attack with the likes of Zaheer, Rabada, Chris Morris, Pat Cummins and Amit Mishra. And yet MI were able to run through the Delhi top-order with far more destruction that what Zaheer and Co were able to inflict. It was more of a brain-fade by the young and inexperienced Delhi batsmen, who were put to the sword by tried and tested pacemen in Mitchell Johnson and Mitchell McClenaghan. After Aditya Tare was run-out by a brilliant piece of fielding by Hardik Pandya in just the fourth delivery of the innings, Sanju Samson departed not long after with the softest of dismissals, pushing it straight down to Rohit at mid-off.
The disastrous start triggered a collapse that none in the Delhi dug-out would have ever thought of. Soon, they were reduced to 24/6 just after the powerplay, with the Mumbai bowlers making full use of the conditions, as well as the inexperience of the Delhi batsmen (and some credit has to go to McClenaghan as well here for an outstanding spell). Despite a rearguard by the South African pace duo of Rabada and Morris, who gave the hosts an almighty scare with a 91-run seventh-wicket stand, the chase was always out of Delhi's hands thanks to the flurry of early wickets. In the end, Bumrah and Pandya signed off with perfect bowling in the death overs, as the visitors fell 14 runs short.
Unlike MI's miraculous win over RCB, chasing down a similar target successfully after getting reduced to 8/4, there was no ray of hope in store for the Delhi boys in this game. Mumbai proved they were too good for the opposition once again, and with this win, they further boost their credentials as the team that can win from the deepest of sinkholes, a hallmark of a champion side.
What remains to be seen is if they can continue this momentum for the remainder of the tournament.
Updated Date: Apr 23, 2017 14:57 PM