Caribbean flair nearly gets us there

A veritable run-feast was on show tonight at the Wankhede as the Mumbai Indians fell agonisingly short of posting the highest successful run-chase in IPL history against the marauding Kings XI Punjab. The pitch was paradise for batsmen, less so for bowlers as a combined 453 runs were smashed in 40 overs.

The strategy of ‘If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it’, was in force today as Rohit Sharma opted for no changes from the team that faced off against Sunrisers Hyderabad. Glenn Maxwell called incorrectly at the toss, and our skipper opted to chase. Given that the majority of our victories this season came whilst chasing, this seemed a natural choice. For Kings XI Punjab, their only change was drafting in Ishant Sharma for Swapnil Singh.

Wriddhiman Saha and Martin Guptill strode out to bat on an absolute belter of a pitch. The choice of Saha was odd, given that this was just his seventh time he was opening the batting in his T20 career. Martin Guptill, though faced the first ball, off Hardik Pandya, and immediately sank his teeth into the all-rounder’s first delivery, crashing it for four. Wriddhiman Saha got into the act as he guided a square drive past point off the last ball of Hardik’s over, to ensure Kings XI Punjab got off to a flier.

Mitchell McClenaghan bowled the second over, but was erratic, both in line and with his front foot. A massive 16 runs were conceded off the second over and Rohit Sharma was forced to call upon his main weapon, Bumrah earlier than he would have liked. Bumrah provided a modicum of control (and respite from the breakneck progression of the innings) as he conceded a measly 3 runs in the powerplay off the third over. More importantly more Mumbai, he kept the boundaries down and bowled three dots in it, equal to what McClenaghan and Hardik managed combined in the first two overs.

Lasith Malinga was brought on to bowl the fourth over, but was distinctly off-colour. His second ball was an uncharacteristic no-ball, which was also dispatched for a maximum over long-off by Martin Guptill. Wriddhiman Saha joined the act as he took advantage of the fielding restrictions by carting Malinga’s third and fourth deliveries for back-to-back boundaries. In the meantime, Kings XI Punjab brought up their team fifty in this over. Bumrah’s second over, despite the first ball four, was a continuation of his first. His bouncers were on the mark, and he cleverly mixed up his cutters with stock balls. 9 runs were recorded off his second over (Punjab’s fifth of the innings), but the innings run rate was still 12 runs an over.

With Harbhajan Singh getting attended to, after hurting his wrist whilst attempting to catch an outside edge at slip, Karn Sharma was brought on to bowl the final over of the powerplay. Martin Guptill struck a brace of boundaries of the legspinner’s first two balls, before he skied the next to Hardik Pandya. Pandya managed to make a difficult catch look easy and Mumbai had their first wicket of the evening. The Punjab skipper, Glenn Maxwell walked into a very solid platform laid by the openers. Punjab ended the powerplay at a commanding 71/1.

Mitchell McClenaghan steamed back to bowl his second over of the day, but it was one of those days where the faster he bowled, the faster it travelled. Wriddhiman Saha and Glenn Maxwell cashed in and struck three fours, the highlight being a beautiful ramp off an off-cutter that beat fine-leg and thumped into the boundary hoarding. Conventional wisdom would dictate that a leg-spinner would be extremely effective against right-handed batsmen. Unfortunately for Mumbai, Glenn Maxwell paid no heed to this and struck the first and fifth ball of Karn Sharma’s second over for maximum. Maxwell was no doubt aided by the true nature of the pitch, given that both strikes were nowhere near the pitch of the ball. Maxwell had the honour of posting the team’s 100 at the end of the final ball of the 8th over.

Fans were delighted to see Harbhajan Singh back in action, as the off-spinner was drafted in to bowl the ninth over of the innings. Glenn Maxwell greeted the veteran tweaker with a pair of sixes off his first two balls, before repeating the dose off his fifth ball. Punjab had looted 21 runs of one of the most economical bowlers in this tournament, a testament to their clean hitting and the placid nature of this surface. Incredibly, Maxwell and Saha were at the same score at end of the 9th over (41), with Maxwell taking 10 fewer balls to reach this point (Saha had faced 24 balls, Maxwell 14).

Lasith Malinga was brought on to bowl the 10th over, with Rohit Sharma looking to his senior spearhead to provide some, any, control. Malinga wound back the clock and duly delivered for his captain, conceding just 5 runs as Maxwell and Saha couldn’t get under Slinga’s deliveries. Nevertheless, Kings XI Punjab were 126/1 after the 10th over and Mumbai were in danger of conceding over 250. Rohit Sharma opted to strike while the iron was hot, by giving the only bowler of the night to go at under 10 runs an over, Jasprit Bumrah, his third over. Bumrah squeezed 4 successive bowling dots (the third delivery being a leg bye). A cruel outside edge that evaded the diminutive ‘keeper, Parthiv Patel, cost him and Mumbai a four off the fifth ball, but cricket is a great leveler and Bumrah had his man bowled neck-and-crop off the final ball of his third over. The last two overs had both cost just 10 runs and Kings XI Punjab’s run rate was 11.90 at the beginning of the twelfth over.

Harbhajan Singh took over from Malinga, with Wriddhiman Saha taking control and smashing a six to bring up his fifty, but despite this, just 10 runs were conceded off Bhajji’s second over. Karn Sharma bowled the 13th over and it didn’t prove to be inauspicious for Mumbai as just 6 runs were conceded off it. Punjab were going at over 13 runs an over at the end of the 9th over, but at the end of Karn’s over the run rate had been pegged back to 11.30 runs an over.
Rohit Sharma decided to halt the rotation of bowlers by persisting with Harbhajan in the 14th over. Saha and Marsh decided to put the foot down and dispatched him for a four and a six respectively in this over as 14 runs came off it. Ominously for Mumbai, there were clear signs that the dew had come in to play, making the bowlers’ job of gripping the ball far tougher. Mitchell McClenaghan bowled the 16th over of the innings, but made the cardinal sin of bowling a no-ball first up. It was his misfortune that Shaun Marsh picked the slower ball and hit a monstrous six. Nevertheless, the Kiwi redeemed himself by getting rid of his trans-Tasman rival, with Parthiv Patel taking a very good catch to account for Shaun Marsh for 25. Nevertheless, McClenaghan continued to leak runs as Saha continued on his merry way.

Sensing the moment, Rohit brought back his key bowler, Jasprit Bumrah, to bowl his final over in the 17th of the match. Bumrah duly delivered, conceding just 8 runs and bowling a precious dot ball off his last ball of his spell: His 10 dot balls in his spell were the most that any MI bowler could manage this evening and Bumrah ended the match with the otherworldly figures of 4-0-24-1: This in a match where every bowler went at more than 10 runs an over. 3 overs to go, Punjab were two short of posting 200 with Saha not out on 79. Lasith Malinga bowled the 18th over. Given the circumstances, to not concede a boundary in it was a fantastic job, but Kings XI Punjab still managed to rotate the strike, managing 2 runs off four separate deliveries. Despite this, the 200 was brought up as Malinga ended his spell with figures of 4-0-45-0.

The penultimate over of the innings was bowled by Mitchell McClenaghan, who was going at more than 15 runs an over till that point. The Kiwi bowled out of his skin, conceding just 7 runs of his over, despite Rana failing to hang on to a tough chance that Axar Patel offered. The 20th over was less parsimonious, as Hardik Pandya leaked a brace of maximums to ensure Punjab posted 230/3 after their allotted 20 overs.

Needless to say, a quick start was required to the innings. With the onset of dew and Parthiv and Simmons at the top of the order, the game was by no means a formality. Simmons returned the favour by hitting the first ball of the innings for a boundary, but Sandeep Sharma bounced back well to limit the damage to just 10 runs off the first over. The additional zip from Matt Henry allied to a lightning fast outfield and Parthiv and Lendl needed no further invitation to get stuck into the New Zealander. 13 runs eventuated and Mumbai were on their way at 23/1 after the second over, going at pretty much the required rate required from the outset.

Ishant Sharma was brought on to bowl the 3rd over as Maxwell looked to the experienced quick to close the flow of runs. To his credit, just 6 runs were scored, four of them being an edge to third man. The fourth over was similar to the third as Sandeep Sharma cleverly changed his length and pace to keep the runs down to just 8 runs. It came to a stage where something had to give. Ishant’s first over was good, and he started his second well, with a close shout for leg-before-wicket (LBW) denied by the umpire. Thence, it was carnage as three fours came off the remainder of the over, with Simmons and Parthiv looking to hit themselves out of a burgeoning run rate, bringing up the team fifty in the process.

The last over of the powerplay saw Mohit Sharma being brought on to bowl his first. Simmons took him on second ball and creamed him for a maximum downtown over long-on to immediately put the bowler under pressure. The West Indian repeated the dose off the fourth ball elegantly lofting the ball over cover for a maximum. Mumbai were suddenly back in the hunt with the required run rate dropping back to a little over 11.6 runs to the over.

The second ball of the next over saw Mohit Sharma put down Simmons at long-off, perhaps a combination of the lights and the ball’s slicked surface contributing to the regulation chance being spilled. Simmons was in no mood to be merciful, carting the unfortunate Axar Patel for a brace of sixes to round out the last couple of balls of the 7th over. Mumbai were now 82/0, with Simmons bringing up his second fifty of IPL 2017, in just his third innings.

Glenn Maxwell has established a reputation of being a very effective circuit breaker this season, being able to restrict the runs and heap pressure back on to the opposing team. Three of his first four balls were dots as Parthiv and Simmons struggled to get the Australian away, before a streaky edge off the fifth ball went for a couple of runs. All Mumbai could manage off the 8th over was a paltry 5 runs. Mohit Sharma was not so fortunate, as whatever pressure Maxwell applied dissipated of his first three balls: all went for fours. Nevertheless, Parthiv, in an attempt to make hay, tried to force a heave, but could only spoon it to Manan Vohra at cover. Mumbai had lost their first one short of the team’s hundred.

It would need to take something special to dismiss the rampant West Indian and Martin Guptill provided it. A one-handed catch at boundary’s edge, off the skipper’s bowling to boot, meant that Simmons had to go on his way. This heralded the arrival of our captain, Rohit Sharma. Glenn Maxwell opted for Rahul Tewatia to bowl the 12th over. This proved to a shrewd move, given the lack of pace would make ball-striking difficult. Rohit Sharma unfortunately found that out as all he could do was bottom-edge a half-tracker to Martin Guptill as Mumbai slumped to 120/3 at the end of the 12th over. The equation at this stage was a daunting 111 runs off 48 balls.

Axar Patel made that equation a whole lot more difficult by getting rid of Nitish Rana in the following over, whilst conceding just 3 runs in the process. However, with Kieron Pollard and Hardik Pandya at the crease, the required run rate of 15.42 was still within the realms of the possible. The 14th over bowled by Tewatia was deemed take-off for the duo: a brace of sixes, one apiece by Pollard and Pandya signaled a huge momentum shift in favour of Mumbai Indians. The 16th over though was where Mumbai truly started to believe: Matt Henry’s second over of the night went for a mindboggling 27 runs as Pollard and Pandya slammed two maximums apiece in the over. The equation went from being nearly 17 runs an over at the start of the 15th over to just 14 runs an over at the end of it.

Sandeep Sharma had other ideas, however, as he accounted for Hardik Pandya, courtesy a fabulous catch by Wriddhiman Saha: A valiant 30 runs was his return in a steep run-chase. Karn Sharma came out to the crease, ahead of Harbhajan Singh and added his bit to the mix carting a boundary of the final ball of Sandeep’s third over. Still, despite losing Hardik, Mumbai managed 17 runs off this over as the equation came down to 39 runs off 18 balls (a rate of 13 runs an over).
Pollard took a single off the first ball of the 18th over, which left Karn on strike, facing up to Mohit Sharma. Despite this, Karn dispatched the next three balls for boundaries (sequence, 6, 4, 4,) before Mohit Sharma bowled his man. Nevertheless, Karn’s 6-ball 19 was a fantastic cameo from the leg-spinner and at the end of the 18th over, the equation was 23 runs off the final 2 overs. Mumbai were actually ahead of the run-rate.

Unfortunately, this is where the wheels came off for Mumbai. Pollard and Harbhajan failed to hit Sandeep Sharma off his lines as he delivered a brilliant penultimate over, conceding just 7 runs to leave the equation 16 runs off the final over. Coincidentally, the teams were neck-and-neck at this stage of the match. Pollard however was on strike for the final over, bowled by Mohit Sharma, striking a huge blow off the second ball for six. The equation now was a relatively benign 9 runs off 4 balls. Mohit Sharma reeled off three successive dot balls off the third, fourth and fifth balls to leave the equation an impossible 9 runs off 1 ball. Mohit Sharma must be given credit for the way he came back, given that his first 3 overs went for 49 runs. Ultimately, Pollard’s valiant fifty came in vain, with these two teams contesting a run-feast for the ages at the Wankhede. Mumbai will now travel to Eden Gardens to play their final match of the league stages against the Knight Riders, in what could potentially be a top-of-the-table clash on Saturday.

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