First for Delhi or fifth for Mumbai?
It had come down to the game’s last ball. For their fourth Indian Premier League (IPL) title, Mumbai Indians (MI) had to stop Chennai Super Kings (CSK) from scoring two. Lasith Malinga bowled the ball of IPL 2019, a slow yorker, to win it for MI.
With 170 wickets in 122 games, Malinga is IPL’s highest wicket-taker. But this time, Malinga pulled out citing personal reasons. MI had a settled squad --- all those who played last year’s final were available --- but at the start of the IPL13, the question bothering their think-tank was: how do you replace a player like Malinga?
Step forward, Trent Boult. With 22 wickets going into Tuesday’s final against Delhi Capitals (DC), the left-arm pacer has admirably filled in for the slinger from Sri Lanka to partner Jasprit Bumrah who has 27 wickets this term.
MI traded Boult from DC and the New Zealander has hurt his former team the most. Over the past 10 days, MI and DC have played each other twice and in both games, Boult has taken out the top-order. He got Prithvi Shaw and Dhawan on October 31 and finished with figures of 4-0-21-3. Shaw and Ajnikya Rahane fell to Boult in the Qualifier 1 last Thursday when he returned figures of 2-0-9-2.
DC lost both games, the first by nine wickets and then by 57 runs. They were DC’s most humiliating defeats of the season. Including the first league game which MI won by five wickets, the defending champions have beaten DC thrice.
Boult had a niggle in the last game, but MI skipper Rohit Sharma was confident he would play. “Boult looks pretty good. We always wanted somebody who could get us wickets in the powerplay, we looked across the world and obviously it is (a) no-brainer that he is the best when it comes to swinging the ball into the batsmen or taking away from the left-handers. Luckily, we got him traded from Delhi. He has not disappointed, is a great asset to have and we hope he can do it one more time for us,” said Sharma on Monday.
DC have an equally lethal pace duo of Kagiso Rabada --- IPL13’s highest wicket-taker with 29 scalps --- and Anrich Nortje (20 wickets). The South African pair has destroyed other batting line-ups but has had limited success against MI.
MI’s wins against DC have come without much contribution from Sharma, their main batsman. Sharma is still searching for rhythm after an injury-induced break but opener Quinton de Kock has come good against DC with scores of 53 (36 balls), 26 (28 balls) and 40 (25 balls). With two half-centuries each, Suryakumar Yadav and Ishan Kishan too have done well against DC. Yadav scored 53 off 32 and 51 off 38 and Kishan got 72 off 47 and 55* off 30.
While finding a way past this trio has become a headache for DC’s bowlers, MI also have an edge in power-hitting. Kieron Pollard and Hardik Pandya have been in tremendous form with the top two strike rates in the tournament, 190.44 and 182.89 respectively. In the first Qualifier, Pandya delivered the knock-out punch in the last three overs, hammering five sixes to take the total to 200.
For DC, Marcus Stoinis is the best equipped to do the damage in the slog overs but after success as opener against Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH), he is expected to play at the top. It means the onus will be on Shimron Hetmyer and Rishabh Pant to provide the impetus in then end-overs.
DC are heavily reliant on opener Shikhar Dhawan. In his best IPL so far, the left-hander has scored two centuries in a tally of 603 runs but against MI, he has registered two ducks in the last two games.
To be fair, no batsman had a chance against Bumrah’s inch-perfect yorker that speared into his stumps when they last met. But Dhawan warmed up for the final with a blistering half-century (78 off 50 balls) against SRH sharing an 86-run partnership with Stoinis en route. The two put off SRH new ball bowlers by regularly stepping out of the crease to negate the swing.
As on official replacement for Malinga, MI signed James Pattinson. He was brilliant in the supporting pacer’s role, till MI opted for Nathan Coulter-Nile for his better batting skills. It will be a toss-up between the two for the 11th spot, which Mitchell McClenaghan occupied, in the last final. McClenaghan has not played this season
Nine of the playing 11 who helped MI win IPL12 final will be available for this game. This is DC’s first final so how their young captain Shreyas Iyer and his players cope with could be an important factor.
MI have the experience and will start favourites. But having won their last two finals by one-run margins --- one of them against another first-timer, RPS, --- they will know how easily it can slip away too.