A match worthy of the venue

A match between two heavyweights lived upto its billing. On Sunday night, Mumbai Indians (MI) and Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) fought a colossal battle at the Wankhede Stadium, with Mumbai emerging victors with just one ball to spare.

The match was characterized by momentum shifts throughout! Firstly, with the new ball, Lasith Malinga, back in an MI jersey after 686 days of absence, struggled to grip the new ball initially given that he went for 20 runs in his first two overs. Chris Lynn and Gautam Gambhir were looking set to repeat their performance against Gujarat Lions, when the KKR skipper slashed Krunal Pandya to Mitchell McClenaghan at point, where the Kiwi pulled off a catch with a well-timed jump. That broke a dangerous 44-run stand! Krunal snapped up Uthappa in the same over, when his brother Hardik took a well-judged catch in the deep.

Harbhajan Singh, making his first appearance in the tenth addition of the Indian Premier League, was tidy. He ended up with neat figures of 0/27 off his 4 overs, with Manish Pandey in particular struggling against him, scoring just 11 runs off 11 balls faced. All of this resulted in a momentum shift in Mumbai’s favour, where, after having conceded 59 runs in the first 6 overs, MI conceded just 30 in the next 6 overs.

Suryakumar Yadav and Manish Pandey combined well during the latter stages of the middle overs and put on 44 runs in a little over 4 overs to signal yet another momentum shift. Suryakumar departed after Malinga out-foxed him with a slower ball. Pandey at the other end was going from strength-to-strength and was looking to up the ante. His ramp shot off McClenaghan at the end of the 14th over, in particular demonstrated his ability to handle the hostile pace of Mumbai’s quicks. He raised his 50 in the 18th over off 37 balls.

Despite Pandey’s fighting 50, KKR were in danger of posting a sub-par total, when they were 144/5 with two overs to go. Things got worse for the visitors when Woakes lobbed a Malinga slower ball to Pollard, who completed his second catch of the innings. Pandey, however muscled a slower Malinga ball over deep midwicket to ignite a final push. At the end of the 19th over, KKR found themselves at 155/6. McClenaghan was entrusted to bowl the final over and Pandey ransacked 21 runs off the over. The match thus headed into the break with KKR posting 178/7, far above 151 - the average first innings score at the Wankhede in IPL 2016.

The experimental opening partnership of Jos Buttler & Parthiv Patel continued against KKR. After weathering testing first overs from both Trent Boult and Chris Woakes, the experiment seemed vindicated. The partnership was characterized with smart running between the wickets and calculated risks. Mumbai thus finished the powerplay without losing a wicket and posted 49 runs on the board.

In the 8th over, however Kuldeep Yadav broke the opening stand with Parthiv Patel adjudged leg before wicket. That resulted in a collapse of sorts, as MI went from 65 without loss to 74/3 in the space of 14 balls. A couple of contentious calls for LBW did not help matters, either. One player who did not let the pressure of the situation get to him was Nitish Rana. After a streaky bottom-edged pull to the fine-leg boundary, he looked to consolidate and found himself on just 8 off 9 balls, midway through the 12th over.

At that stage, Kuldeep Yadav was operating and Rana decided to open his shoulders, carting successive deliveries for four and six to end the 12th over with a flourish. It also ensured that the required run-rate did not balloon up to dangerous proportions.

Unfortunately, the very next ball, Krunal Pandya feathered a Rajpoot lifter to Uthappa behind the stumps. In walked Kieron Pollard with Mumbai needing 82 off 47 balls. Pollard looked to dominate and smashed his third ball for six. However, Pollard struggled to get going, as he decided to play out Kuldeep’s last over. Pollard managed to bring up a significant milestone today, becoming the fourth MI player to manage 2000 IPL runs for the team. Nevertheless, at the beginning of the 17th over, he sliced a short and wide offering from Woakes to substitute fielder, Rishi Dhawan. The equation was bleak for MI, with 60 runs required off just 24 balls.

Rana and Hardik had other ideas, though. Rana slapped Woakes for a boundary and Pandya followed suit two balls later to keep the chase afloat, with the equation being 49 runs off the last 18 balls.

Trent Boult was entrusted to bowl the 18th and 20th overs. He began the 18th with a thigh-high full toss that Rana was unable to take full toll off. With the equation now reading 47 off 16 balls, Rana smashed consecutive long-hops from Trent Boult for four and six respectively, to bring back a glimmer of hope. Hardik smashed Boult’s last ball for an imperious six to leave the equation at a more-manageable 30 runs off 12 balls.

Ankit Rajpoot was entrusted to bowl the penultimate over, but did not start well, conceding 10 runs off the first two balls as Rana brought up a fighting 50 of just 28 balls. He had smashed 27 runs off his last 9 balls faced, before carving a wide low full toss to Sunil Narine on the point boundary after reaching his 50. Hardik Pandya ensured that Rana’s efforts were not in vain by smashing a full toss from Rajpoot for six off the penultimate ball off the penultimate over. The equation? Just 11 off 6, with the 18th and 19th overs both going for 19 runs apiece.

Nerves characterized the last over as Hardik failed to cash in on an ill-directed full toss from Pandya, before Suryakumar Yadav failed to make a stop in the deep, giving Mumbai a vital boundary at the death. Hardik’s charmed life at the crease received yet another life as Rishi Dhawan failed to latch onto a skier and dropped him. In a match which saw a combined 358 runs scored, it came down to the team who did the basics better. We now face Sunrisers Hyderabad, again at the Wankhede on Wednesday and will look to keep the momentum with us against the defending champions.

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