Super Bumrah delivers victory

The Mumbai Indians and Gujarat Lions engaged in arguably the contest of IPL 2017 as both teams fought bravely to win the encounter at Rajkot. Ultimately, the Mumbai Indians prevailed, but not before a super over was bowled, fingernails that were chewed to the bone and more than a few hearts fluttered.

Suresh Raina won the toss and opted to bat first, a decision that was done to Rajkot being the venue with the highest average first innings score in the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2017. Lasith Malinga & Krunal Pandya came back into the playing XI today, whilst Mitchell Johnson and Karn Sharm made way.

Mitchell McClenaghan, opened the bowling for the Mumbai Indians and immediately decided to test Gujarat’s Ishan Kishan with short-pitched bowling. Ishan was lucky off the third ball of the innings managing to get a top edge off a McClenaghan lifter to open Gujarat’s account, albeit in a streaky manner. Malinga operated from the other end, but the young Kishan was in an uncompromising mood as he lifted a fullish Malinga ball for six over midwicket. McCullum, Kishan’s opening partner, dispatched the Sri Lankan seamer for a boundary to open his account. Malinga had the last laugh, though, as he opted for a length ball zoning in on the stumps that splattered McCullum’s stumps. Gujarat were 21/1 off 2 overs.

Kishan decided to make the most of the Powerplay restrictions as he butchered 3 successive boundaries off the first three balls of McClenaghan’s second over. McClenaghan pulled things back well as the second-half of his over went for just the solitary run. Despite this Gujarat were 36/1 off three overs, with Kishan contributing 75% of their runs at that point (27 off 14 balls). Rohit Sharma shrewdly decided to bring Harbhajan into the attack for the 4th over, given his superlative record against Suresh Raina (Gujarat’s one-drop for today) in the IPL.

However, Ishan Kishan was on strike and continued in the same vein: A short ball was dispatched to the point boundary off Harbhajan’s first delivery, before repeating the dose later in the over as Harbhajan struggled to find his groove. Nevertheless, it was the introduction of Jasprit Bumrah in the fifth over (and Mumbai’s fourth bowler in the powerplay) who ended the Gujarat skipper’s innings prematurely. Raina played a strange swipe across the line off Bumrah’s second ball and which ballooned up to mid-on. Fortunately for MI, Kieron Pollard was there to make a difficult catch look relatively simple and Gujarat were 2-down for 46 inside the 5th over. Bumrah rounded off an excellent first over by restricting Gujarat to just one run off the ensuing 4 deliveries.

After the sequence of events, Rohit decided to bring Lasith Malinga back on for the last over of the powerplay. After being hit off his line in his first over, Malinga opted for slower balls to Ishan Kishan. The change of pace worked as Kishan could only manage 1 run of Malinga’s first 3 deliveries. Malinga accounted for the dangerous Aaron Finch in the same over with yet another slower ball: The off-cutter working a charm as Finch could only drag it back onto his stumps. With Gujarat ransacking 46 runs of the first four overs of their innings, the Mumbai Indians fought back valiantly to restrict the Lions to just 2 runs in the next two overs. Gujarat thus ended the powerplay at 48/3.

It was time to kill off the momentum with spin, and who better than Krunal Pandya and Harbhajan Singh to carry out these plans? Krunal, bowling with unerring accuracy conceded just 3 runs off the 7th over as Dinesh Karthik and Ishan Kishan looked to consolidate. Harbhajan’s second over (and Gujarat’s 8th) was quiet as the veteran offie found his radar and Gujarat could only manage 4 runs off his second over. The pressure ultimately paid off as an impatient Dinesh Karthik charged at a Krunal ball that slid down leg, with Parthiv completing his first stumping of the season. Gujarat found themselves in a big hole when Jadeja walked to the crease, in front of his home crowd. Jadeja wrested some of the initiative back with a powerful slog-sweep off Krunal Pandya for six, but Gujarat were still 62/4 after the 9th over.

With Gujarat’s hopes of posting a competitive total seemingly dependent on how far Ishan Kishan could bat through the innings, it was imperative for Mumbai Indians to get him out as soon as possible. Harbhajan Singh, quiet until this stage, managed to get rid of the youngster with a lovely flighted ball outside Kishan’s off stump. Harbhajan was banking on the youngster’s impetuousness to go after it and he was baited into doing just that. Unfortunately for him and the Lions, all he could do was sky it to Pollard who took a smart catch, his 9th of the season, taking him ahead of Kolkata’s Manish Pandey amongst the leading catchers this season.

Harbhajan bowed out with figures of 1/23 off his 4 overs, and proved once again to be economical and incisive. Ravindra Jadeja at this stage was 20 of 14 balls, but found himself stymied by the oncoming Jasprit Bumrah. Despite a crashing boundary off the 5th ball of this over, Gujarat were in desperate need of some momentum. Mumbai Indians caused the Lions further dismay, as Krunal Pandya accounted for Ravindra Jadeja, whose feisty innings of 28 was ended with a smart caught and bowled. At this stage, Krunal had managed figures of 2/12 in 3 overs, a superlative effort.

It was an opportune time for Malinga to come in and bowl his last. The 15th over of the innings and Malinga’s last, just went for 5 runs with the vintage Malinga back with a clever mix of slower balls and pinpoint-accurate yorkers. Malinga returned season-best figures of 2/33, and looked more like his menacing old self. The newly-inducted Irfan Pathan’s stay at the crease, on debut for the Gujarat Lions, was all-too-brief, when he became Krunal Pandya’s 3rd victim for the evening, as the slow left-arm orthodox bowler registered his T20 (and IPL) best figures of 3/14 off 4 overs. Gujarat were now 102/7 and looking uncertain to breach 140.

It came down to the Australian duo of James Faulkner and Andrew Tye to provide thrust to Gujarat’s innings at the death. Unfortunately it was Mitchell McClenaghan who bore the brunt of the assault as the 18th over of the innings went for 19 runs. Despite a horrible mix-up in the 19th over, Andrew Tye had played the perfect cameo, smashing 25 off 12 balls. Faulkner fell the next ball as Jasprit Bumrah got one over the Australian, with the Australian’s labored stay at the crease scuppered with a well-directed yorker, castling him. At the end of the 19th over Gujarat were in danger of not fully utilizing their quota, being 144/9, but a late maximum by Ankit Soni off McClenaghan pushed the total up to 153.

With the total being more than 30 below the season average in the first innings, but with Mumbai conceding 51 off the last 4 overs, it’s arguable which team was happier going into innings break. What was without doubt was the need for Mumbai to put on a solid opening stand to hunt down this tricky target. Mumbai were off straight away as Gujarat opened with Basil Thampi. 13 runs eventuated as the Kerala quick struggled to find his lines.

Suresh Raina opted to use Faulkner to open the bowling and Parthiv made use of some friendly bowling to cart the Australian for a brace of boundaries. After the second over Mumbai were 24 without loss, with Parthiv 16 off 8 balls. Irfan Pathan was brought on and Parthiv Patel gave him a royal welcome with a four (off his 2nd ball), a six (off the next ball) and another four off his last ball. Mumbai were 40 without loss and 80% of Mumbai’s runs were off Parthiv’s blade at the end of the 3rd over. Ankit Soni was brought on to bowl with the rampant Parthiv and Buttler at the crease. Soni began by stringing two dots together, something no Lions bowler managed up until that point, and Gujarat were gifted a wicket when Parthiv sold his partner down the river off the very last ball. Mumbai were 43/1, but in a healthy position with the required rate still under 7 runs an over. Suresh Raina brought himself on to bowl against the left-handed duo of Nitish Rana and Parthiv Patel, but Rana nailed a slog sweep to get in on the act. Mumbai ended the powerplay at 61/1 and in the ascendancy.

Gujarat employed the same strategy with spin operational from both ends after the powerplay. The move worked as the 7th, 8th and 9th over of the innings went for a combined 15 runs as Raina and Soni bottled things up nicely. Parthiv Patel was playing his innings of IPL 2017 and brought up his first fifty of this tournament with a clip off his pads in the 8th over. Still, with the rate at a touch over 7 runs an over, Mumbai were looking comfortable at this stage. Ankit Soni upset the proverbial apple cart, with a ball that deceived Rana, who was unfortunate to be given LBW as the ball hit Rana on the gloves. Nevertheless, Mumbai had lost its second wicket with the score at 82.

Raina bowled out his quota of four overs, conceding 28 runs and providing a suitable foil to Ankit Soni, who ended up with the impressive figures of 1/16 off his allotted four. The spin threat didn’t let up as Ravindra Jadeja was brought on in the 13th over. Parthiv seized the moment, recognizing that he could not let Jadeja slip into a constricting spell, and recorded a pair of boundaries to keep the required run rate hovering around the 7 runs per over mark.

In what possibly was a final roll of the dice to upset Mumbai’s rhythm, Raina turned to James Faulkner to bowl the 14th over. The move paid immediate dividends as Faulkner got rid off the MI captain, who played an uncharacteristically sluggish innings of 5 off 13 balls. Pollard walked in to bat and was fortunate to get a boundary immediately with a thick edge rocketing past Dinesh Karthik. Pollard was reprieved later in the over, with Thampi putting down a chance at midwicket. Nevertheless, Faulkner accounted for the big fish, with Parthiv Patel failing to keep down a guide to third man and Dinesh Karthik completed a good catch. Parthiv managed a fine innings of 70 runs off 44 balls, mirroring Nitish Rana’s effort last time last year. At this point, the required run rate was a manageable 7.50 runs an over (with 6 overs to go), with Krunal Pandya and Kieron Pollard still out there at the crease. It would take a proverbial collapse to deny Mumbai, now.

Basil Thampi pulled it off with a 5-run 15th over to increase the rate to 8 runs an over, with the strategic time-out taken after the over itself. Krunal Pandya hit a boundary of Faulkner’s 3rd over, the 16th of the innings as Mumbai got the equation down to 31 runs off the remaining 4 overs. Thampi threw a monkey wrench in the works for Mumbai, dismissing Kieron Pollard for a quick 15. It was the next four balls that set into motion the manic events that rounded out Mumbai’s innings, with just 2 runs conceded to ensure Mumbai needed 24 off the final 3 overs.

Gujarat rued the absence of their death-specialist, Andrew Tye, would had unfortunately injured his shoulder earlier in the innings. James Faulkner bowled out, but Raina couldn’t cling on to a tough effort which ensured that Krunal Pandya remained at the crease. Pandya cashed in by smashing a full and straight ball over Faulker’s head for a crucial pressure-releasing boundary. The equation now read 15 runs off just 12 balls.

Baisl Thampi again threw a spanner in the works by dismissing Hardik Pandya, the finisher of so many games for Mumbai Indians this season, with Ishan Kishan taking a superb catch at deep midwicket. Harbhajan Singh walked into the crease, but it was Basil’s day. The second ball of the over beat Krunal’s dink to third man, before Krunal drilled a full ball through cover for a couple: 13 runs required off 9. The fourth ball of the over was a slower ball which was smashed to cover, Krunal opting for a single: 12 off 8. Reverse swing made an appearance now, with Harbhajan Singh trapped plumb in front: 12 runs were now required off 7 balls. Last ball of Thampi’s over and the 19th of the innings was a straight and full delivery with new batsman McClenaghan paddling it to fine leg. Irfan Pathan swooped in and landed a crucial direct hit at the striker’s end to find McClenaghan short of his crease. 11 runs were now required of the final over.

Who would bowl? Andrew Tye was missing and Irfan Pathan was playing his first IPL match of 2017. Raina chose Irfan Pathan, but would rue his choice as the first ball of the final over was dispatched for a six, off a length ball. Krunal Pandya brought the equation down to just 5 runs off 5 balls and it was Mumbai’s game to lose. Irfan Pathan’s second ball was a shortish delivery where he had the nous to take the pace off the ball. All Krunal Pandya could do was pull it to square leg, where he took the single on offer. 4 runs were required off the final 4 balls as Bumkrah smashed a full ball towards point for a suicidal single: Jadeja’s rocket-like throw found Bumrah short off his ground, but crucially for Mumbai, Krunal Pandya was back on strike: The equation now? 4 runs off 3 balls.

The next ball was disappointing from Irfan, short, slow and wide, Krunal played a cut that skipped along tantalizingly close to the boundary before Roy pulled in a mighty dive to keep it down to 2. 2 runs of 2 balls. Did anyone have any fingernails left?

The penultimate ball of the innings was percentage cricket: A full and straight ball pushed to mid-off for a single, which ensured Mumbai could not lose the match. It also meant that Lasith Malinga, our dear number 11, was facing the business end of the final ball of the match.

The final ball defied words. It had to be experienced. Irfan Pathan landed a precious yorker on Malinga’s pads, Krunal Pandya backed up a long way down the pitch, the ball ballooned up to Jadeja at a short-gully. With less than 2 stumps to aim at, but with a rocket-like throw, Jadeja found Krunal short of his ground. This match wasn’t over yet, as Irfan Pathan managed to defend (somehow) 5 runs off the last 5 balls of the innings.

The game thus headed into the first Super Over this season and the first one ever contested by the Mumbai Indians. Buttler and Pollard were our enforcers, James Faulkner was Gujarat’s bowler. The first ball went for a single, with Buttler backing away and striking it to sweeper cover. Pollard wound back the year with a succession off boundaries of the Australian: the second ball of the over went over long-on for a boundary, before Pollard smashed a maximum off a successive length ball over long-on for a six. 11 runs off 3 balls, who would think that’s all Mumbai would end up with? That’s precisely what happened as Pollard launched Faulkner’s fourth into orbit, before Aaron Finch took a simply superb catch. Jos Buttler faced the fifth ball of the over, but like Pollard, could only get vertical displacement, not horizontal. Ishan Kishan showcased just what a cool customer he is, with another pressure catch dismissing the Englishman and ensuring Mumbai made the cardinal sin of not even batting out the entire super over!

Who would bowl for us? Who would bat for them? It was to be Jasprit Bumrah to bowl to the duo of Aaron Finch and Brendon McCullum. What would happen first defied belief. A pinpoint accurate yorker was fired in by Bumrah, with Aaron Finch, he who slayed 72 runs in the previous match, missed it completely. Advantage Mumbai, right? No. It was a no-ball. Of all the times to bowl a no-ball, Bumrah picked possibly the most inopportune time to bowl one. Suddenly Gujarat required 11 runs off 6 legitimate balls.

Bumrah went back to his habit of yorkers, perfected over years of effort and hard work and again came up good, sans no-ball. The first legitimate ball of the super over went for a solitary leg bye. Brendon McCullum was on strike, everyone was on edge. The second ball McCullum walked across his stumps, in the hopes of distracting the bowler. It worked. Bumrah bowled a wide ball. Oh, Bumrah! 9 were required off 5 legitimate balls.

9 runs off 5 balls is exactly the situation McCullum and Finch would find a walk in the park. What would Bumrah bowl? Another yorker? No, it was a dipping slower one that completely out-foxed the rampant Kiwi. No run. 9 runs off 4 balls, required. Tension was everywhere.

The third legitimate ball from Bumrah was another slower ball nefariously dipping under McCullum’s bat outside off: Parthiv’s fumble allowed a single bye. 8 runs off 3 legitimate balls. Could Bumrah defy logic and land another dot? You bet he could, after a brace of slower loopy balls, he followed this up with yet another trademark yorker as Aaron Finch backed away and tried to send this into the Arabian Sea.

8 runs off 2 balls. Mumbai were almost home. They could almost taste the victory. Bumrah’s fifth ball was a low full-toss that Finch tried to swipe across the line. 1 run resulted. 7 runs off the final ball. All Bumrah needed to do was keep his head and not bowl an extra: and he did. Bumrah conceded just one run off the final ball and Mumbai had won the super over.

After losing twice to the same opponent last season, the team prevailed over the same opponent twice this season. In the process as the match went on past midnight, it also coincided with our skipper’s birthday. What a wonderful way to celebrate one’s birthday! Nevertheless, this game has shown the perils of what long breaks can do in halting a team’s momentum. It’s only due to the incredible self-belief of the players that the team was able to get over the line. Mumbai move on to 14 points to keep the pressure up on the Knight Riders at the top of the table. Our next match is now on the 1st of May, against the struggling Royal Challengers Bangalore, at the Wankhede.

 

 


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