IPL 2021: Hardik Pandya's late blows seals win for MI, keeps playoffs hopes alive
After the string of defeats and an underwhelming performance against Virat Kohli’s Royal Challengers Bangalore the other night, Mumbai Indians were switched on with the ball on Tuesday. They were short of producing their A game but another below-par batting show by Punjab Kings was enough for the defending champions to race away to a 6-wicket win in Abu Dhabi.
Mumbai have been in a scamper for playoff berths before. But not off late, after becoming the dominant IPL side they now are. In need of four straight wins to seal a playoff spot, MI had to do something different. They made the first big move before a ball was bowled by dropping the World Cup bound Ishan Kishan.
The next one was to give the first ball to Krunal Pandya’s left-arm-spin. Before this game, Krunal had been bowling with a season average of 69. So, the move had more to do with using up a Krunal over in the powerplay. So well did the trick work that the elder Pandya ended up bowling three overs (3-16-1) in the first-six, also accounting for Mandeep Singh’s wicket. Krunal used a mix of quickish angled balls with the odd seam-up and PK weren’t enterprising enough to target him.
Soon after the field spread out, Kieron Pollard pegged PK further back in the space of 3 balls. He first got KL Rahul (21) to glove to short fine leg. Mumbai would have been wary of not exposing Krunal against Chris Gayle, but a couple of balls after Rahul’s wicket, the MI vice-captain took care of his fellow West Indian—dismissing him on the long-on boundary for one run. In the very next over, Jasprit Bumrah sent down a fiery yorker to remove the dangerous Nicolas Pooran (2), leaving the top-heavy Punjab batting reeling at 50/4 after eight overs.
The Deepak Hooda-Aiden Markram fifth wicket partnership added 61 runs, but they could never pick up speed. With no hitting options in their lower order, Punjab could not step on the accelerator, ending on 135/6.
In reply, Mumbai couldn’t completely overcome their batting blues. Taking a cue from Kolkata Knight Riders’ book, Punjab started with part-time off-spinner Aiden Markram. Rohit Sharma and Quinton de Kock are not weak, but less at ease in attacking the spinners in the powerplay. The word has gone around, and KL Rahul introduced his trump card Ravi Bishnoi in the 4th over. It was Punjab’s turn to produce a two-wicket over of their own. Bishnoi got Sharma out (8) slogging to mid-on and the next ball bowled Suryakumar Yadav (0) through the gate off back-to-back googlies. With Kishan sitting out and Yadav dismissed for the fourth time in a row without getting to double digits, MI’s problems would have begun to worry the Indian selectors.
In his third over, Bishnoi produced another chance off his googly against de Kock but Markram failed to hold on to what would have been an outstanding catch, covering considerable ground to his right from long-off but failing to hold on. The reprieve didn’t help de Kock as the seasoned opener lost concentration and got out (27) to an ugly heave against a Mohammed Shami’s length ball that shattered his stumps, reducing Mumbai to 61/3.
Mumbai’s best batter on view was Saurabh Tiwari. Coming in at No 4, he was the man who eased the pressure off his out-of-touch batting partners by striking timely blows through his 45-run stay. After he was gone in the 16th over, MI’s famed power-hitters Hardik Pandya and Pollard saw them home.