IPL 2021: Axar, Avesh again expose Mumbai Indians’ fragile batting
The business end of the Indian Premier League has arrived and Mumbai Indians have still not mounted that familiar charge. Strange, for this is when their batters come alive and the all-rounders weigh in collectively. They haven’t. Skipper Rohit Sharma is yet to hit a fifty in the UAE leg, Quinton de Kock hasn’t hit one since September 23, Kieron Pollard can’t seem to counter the lack of pace on the ball and Hardik Pandya has hit only two sixes in three games now. It seems to be spiralling towards an implosion every time, with the middle overs being wasted and the death overs producing a run rate of eight, the slowest by any side.
The bowlers haven’t failed Mumbai Indians though, keeping them in the hunt despite the string of paltry scores. Trent Boult is finding ways to surprise beyond the opening overs, Nathan Coulter-Nile is throwing batters off their kilter with his variations while Jasprit Bumrah is being, well, himself. Six down in the 14th over in Sharjah on Saturday, Delhi Capitals weren’t bothered about optics though. Victory had to be achieved at any cost and so Shreyas Iyer and Ravichandran Ashwin dug in and thwarted the most credible bowling threats to give their team two points with five balls to spare.
Bulk of the credit however should go to their bowlers, who used a sluggish pitch to control the pace of the game. From being quick in the opening overs, Avesh Khan and Anrich Nortje came up with slower ones later on which Mumbai Indians batters just couldn’t clear the infield. Then there was Axar Patel, putting to work his variations cleverly. The match-ups worked well too. Against spin, de Kock averages 10 with a strike rate of 61 as opposed to an average of 76.5 and a strike rate of 135 against pace. So Patel tossed one up, inviting him to go hard but the South African player couldn’t clear Nortje at backward point. This, when Sharma’s miscued pull off Khan should have immediately prompted some introspection from the Mumbai Indians batters. But they couldn’t rein in their aggressive instincts for long.
Saurabh Tiwary got out off a top edge against Patel. Suryakumar Yadav, who looked good for his 26-ball 33, was foxed by a full toss from Patel as MI failed to score a boundary for 35 balls between the 11th and 17th overs. Pollard didn’t stay long as well, forcing the Mumbai team to settle for an under-par total. Had it not been for their bowlers, Saturday’s game wouldn’t have stretched to the 20th over.
The defending champions, who were sixth, can still make it to the last four. But the calculations are getting complicated. Apart from needing to win their remaining two games against Rajasthan Royals and Sunrisers Hyderabad, Mumbai may need a couple of favourable results. This time, they have left it really late.
Brief scores: Mumbai Indians 129/8 in 20 overs (S Yadav 33, Avesh 3/15, Axar 3/21) lost to Delhi Capitals 132/6 in 19.1 overs (R Pant 26, S Iyer 33*) by 4 wickets.