Karn spins us to fourth IPL final

The Mumbai Indians will face the Rising Pune Supergiant in the final of the 2017 Indian Premier League after a dominant performance at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bengaluru. Mumbai managed to put in a strong show against the Kolkata Knight Riders, notching up their 3rd victory over the same opponent this season and won by 6 wickets with 33 balls to spare.

Lady luck favoured Rohit Sharma at the coin-toss today as Gautam Gambhir called incorrectly. Rohit Sharma opted to put the Knight Riders into bat on a pitch that looked similar to the one that the Knight Riders and Sunrisers contested a couple of days previously. Mitchell Johnson came in for our leading wicket-taker of the Indian Premier League 2017, Mitchell McClenaghan. For the Knight Riders, Ankit Rajpoot and Colin de Grandhomme came in for Yusuf Pathan and Trent Boult respectively.

Mitchell Johnson opened the bowling for us against the explosive combination of Sunil Narine and Chris Lynn. Johnson’s first over was right on the money as he managed to take advantage of the two-paced nature of the pitch. His fifth ball exemplified that as Chris Lynn was early on a pull shot which caught his top edge, but landed safely, evading a desperate dive from Lasith Malinga. Jasprit Bumrah came on to bowl the second over ahead of veteran Lasith Malinga and continued from where he left off against Pune. The third ball was absolutely crucial, given that he hoodwinked Lynn into shoveling him straight down dee mid-wicket’s throat. Kieron Pollard took a well-judged pressure catch to get the Knight Riders’ skipper walking in. The next couple of balls were nothing short of magical as Bumrah got the new ball to seam and swing away from Gambhir’s tentative prods. The over ended with a third consecutive play-and-miss as KKR were reduced to 5/1 after the second over.

Mitchell Johnson continued for his second over, but lost his radar a bit, with the KKR skipper playing an exquisite cover drive to register KKR’s first boundary of their innings. He repeated the dose against Lasith Malinga, audaciously flicking a length ball spearing into his pads over deep square-leg for a maximum. Karn Sharma, brought on to bowl the fifth over, ended Narine’s entertaining innings with an expertly-flighted top-spinner that Narine charged down the track, but missed completely. KKR were 25/2 at the end of the fifth over and were struggling to gain any sort of momentum.

Jasprit Bumrah, bowling his second over in the last of the powerplay, got rid of the dangerous Robin Uthappa with a speared-in ball that struck his pads, which the umpire had little hesitation in deeming him leg-before-wicket. Ishank Jaggi came to the crease ahead of Suryakumar Yadav and was given a thorough working-over by Bumrah. He rounded out the powerplay with a wicket-maiden and with KKR 25/3 it was advantage Mumbai Indians.

Sensing this, Gambhir dispatched the first ball of Karn Sharma’s second over for a boundary, a delightful inside-out shot over cover. Then, the legspinner turned the match on its head by getting rid of the KKR skipper who tried to heave him against the spin, but could only find Hardik Pandya at deep midwicket. Colin de Grandhomme strode to the crease and immediately strode off as Karn Sharma landed a googly perfectly that caught the Kiwi plumb in front. KKR had lost their last four wickets for 7 runs and slid to 31/5 after 7 overs.

Rohit Sharma opted to bring on Krunal Pandya for the eighth over and he acquitted himself tidily, conceding just 5 runs as Suryakumar Yadav and Ishank Jaggi were keen on rotating the strike. It was more of the same in the ninth as Karn Sharma’s third over went for just 3 runs to keep KKR’s run rate at the end of the ninth over at just 4.33. Suryakumar Yadav sensed the match was slipping away quickly from KKR’s grasp and spanked the first ball of the eleventh over for a maximum. Jaggi repeated the dose at the beginning of Johnson’s over (the twelfth of the innings) and followed it up with a triple off the very next ball. Jaggi had moved from 8 of 18 balls to 17 off 23 balls at the end of the 12th, whilst KKR’s run rate was looking a little more respectable, at 5.08 runs an over.

Suryakumar Yadav decided to take full advantage of an off-colour Krunal as Rohit opted to bowl him for his second over on-the-trot. He swept the first ball for four, before coming down the pitch and manufacturing a half-volley which he lofted for four over cover. Krunal pulled things bac k by conceding just 2 runs off the next four balls, but the damage was done. KKR were 71/5 at the end of the 13th over. Jaggi took a leaf out of his partner’s book and took toll of Malinga’s come-back over, smashing him for a brace of fours. With 22 runs combined off the 13th and 14th over, momentum was swinging fast towards KKR.

Rohit brought back his ace-in-the-hole, Karn Sharma. The leggie stopped the run-glut by keeping Suryakumar and Ishank to 4 runs off the first 4 deliveries, before a rush-of-blood from Jaggi resulted in him unwisely striking a full-ish ball straight down Johnson’s throat. Karn thus, registered his best-ever IPL figures with an analysis of 4-0-16-4 and ended a dangerous 56-run stand between these two.

Hardik Pandya came on to bowl a solitary over, the 16th and with Piyush Chawla at the crease opted for some short-pitched bowling. The diminutive bowler could not ramp any and the run-rate was still under 6-runs an over at the end of the over. Mitchell Johnson was brought on to make it pace from both ends and struck with his first legitimate delivery to end Piyush Chawla’s stay at the crease: A slower ball was ill-timed by Piyush straight down Rayudu’s throat to make it 93/7. Nathan Coulter-Nile, Johnson’s Western Australian team-mate in the past came out to face the left-arm quick. He immediately made an impact, taking on a short ball that didn’t rise up and nailed it over square-leg for a massive maximum. However, Johnson, not getting carried away, speared a full-ball into his pads which Coulter-Nile tried to slog, but onto to Hardik’s hands to reduce the Knight Riders to 100 for 8.

Any hopes that KKR had of batting out their full quota of 20 overs was dealt a severe blow as Jasprit Bumrah banged in a short ball which Suryakumar top-edged to Lasith Malinga, who took the catch. Given that it was swirling around and it was of a set batsman, his catch diving forward was perhaps his most significant contribution in this match. At this stage, Bumrah had the otherworldly figures of 2.1-1-2-3, before Ankit Rajpoot spoiled these with a top-edged four.

It, however, would only prove to be a matter of time before the innings folded and Lasith Malinga ended KKR’s innings by bowling a succession of slow-yorkers. The first couple missed the stumps by a whisker, before the third cannoned into Rajpoot’s leg stump to restrict KKR to just 107 in 18.5 overs. As a cherry on top, Karn Sharma registered his IPL-best figures (4/16) and Jasprit Bumrah registered his T20-best figures (3/7) in a commanding display on the field. The total for KKR was their fifth-lowest in their IPL history: 4 of these 5 lowest totals have been against the Mumbai Indians.

A total of 108 should not be of concern to many batting sides, unless early wickets were taken. Fortunately for Mumbai Indians, early casualties were minimized. Umesh Yadav opened the bowling against the duo of Lendl Simmons and Parthiv Patel. Despite the third ball of the first over misbehaving a tad, Parthiv calmed MI’s nerves with a crunching cover drive off the final ball for four.

Gautam Gambhir, perhaps thinking that this was a leg-spinner’s wicket, opted for Piyush Chawla to ball with the new ball. The move worked as Chawla’s third ball, a googly, was mis-read by Lendl Simmons and was adjudged leg-before-wicket. Parthiv Patel continued on his merry way as Rayudu joined him at the crease, carting Umesh Yadav for a pair of boundaries at the beginning of the third over. However, Umesh’s fifth ball, a short-and-wide offering, got big on Parthiv and he gave a facile outside edge to Uthappa. Rohit Sharma walked to the crease, with the score 24/2. Nathan Coulter-Nile bowled the third over of the innings, but Rayudu and Rohit played percentage-cricket by rotating the strike and being helped by a wide ball. Mumbai were subsequently 30/2 after four overs and despite a quiet over from Sunil Narine were well on their way to booking their spot in the final.

Piyush Chawla had other ideas, though and bowled an absolute peach to get rid of Ambati Rayudu: A leg-break drifted on middle-and-off which sneaked past Rayudu’s outside edge and kissed the top of off-stump. Krunal Pandya and Rohit Sharma stitched together a 54-run stand to completely kill off the contest, before Nathan Coulter-Nile ended the stand with Rohit holing out to deep square-leg. It was perhaps fitting that the KPs, Krunal Pandya and Kieron Pollard, were at the crease when the winning runs were hit. They had engineered a win the previous time the Mumbai Indians had played at this venue, with a spiriting win over the Royal Challengers Bangalore. The contest was over in the fifteenth over as Krunal Pandya hit a four to send the Mumbai Indians through to the final.

The stage is set for the Mumbai Indians to take on the Rising Pune Supergiant for the fourth Maharashtra derby this season. The record may be 0-3 in RPS’ favour in this season, but with the added pressure of a final, coupled with the Mumbai Indians having had prior experience in this situation before, the final is definitely not a foregone conclusion. It’s thus a perfect denouement to the tenth edition of the Indian Premier League: The top-two sides after the league stage ending the tournament!

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