Bowlers can’t give Rohit Sharma a chance to swing his arms, not at least at Eden Gardens. He can flick, pull and even hook with his eyes closed. Neither does it help if the wicket-keeper fumbles with easy collections, fielders concede overthrows and bowlers gift wides.
So despite fifties from captain Gautam Gambhir and Manish Pandey, and some lusty hits from Andre Russell, Kolkata Knight Riders erred on those counts. Preferring John Hastings over Sunil Narine, similarly, was another decision KKR could have done without. That allowed Mumbai Indians to walk away with a confidence-boosting win.
The only comforting point for KKR was their batting. Gambhir and Pandey took little time to recover from a slow start and mounted a calculated charge after a poor powerplay. Russell added the finishing touch but had he managed to stay till the end, Mumbai Indians could well have been staring at a target of over 200.
While trusting Brad Hogg to continue from where he had left against Delhi Daredevils was an understandable decision, opting for Kuldeep Yadav over Umesh Yadav was a huge gamble by Gambhir. Kuldeep started well though, giving away just five runs in his first over. Mitchell McClenaghan flitted too much in the crease and even flat batted him for a six over long-off. Kuldeep had luck on his side as McClenaghan mistimed a full toss to Colin Munro at cover. This was not to be a day for KKR’s spin attack, however, as it could not arrest Mumbai’s charge.
Both McClenaghan and Parthiv Patel chipped in with useful contributions but the man to dismiss was Rohit. His temperament showed in the way he constructed his innings. He warmed up with a flicked six down leg off a poor delivery from Russell in the first over before demoralising Hastings with two boundaries in the second over. But when Patel and McClenaghan were on the button, he was content rotating the strike.
Rohit kept the rate in check though with those big booming shots. Like in the ninth over when he punished Piyush Chawla, sending down a long-hop, for a six. Rohit raised his 50 off 38 balls --- slightly sedate by his standards --- but more importantly he held up one end. It was comforting that the rest of the Mumbai Indians batting order didn’t think twice before tearing into KKR.
McClenaghan was replaced by Jos Buttler, who first laid into Hogg so strongly that his six, in the 15th over, finished just above the last row of the long first tier. Next over, the English batsman knocked around Russell for 4, 6, 6 to raise 18 runs. By the end of that over, Mumbai Indians had well and truly caught up with the asking rate, allowing Rohit to finish the match off in fashion.