Short balls catch Mumbai Indians off guard in tricky chase | Crickit

Short balls catch Mumbai Indians off guard in tricky chase

By, Kolkata
Mar 25, 2024 03:11 PM IST

Titans pacers make the most of new second bouncer rule at a venue with bigger boundaries

Hardik Pandya likes to play on the up. In fact, the shorter the better for him. Case in point is the six he slapped over extra cover off the first ball off Umesh Yadav in the 20th over. It was short, it was hopelessly wide outside off and deserved that treatment. But then came the second short ball, at a more ideal length, and more importantly at the right line, cramping Pandya for the pull as all he could manage was a top edge that flew to Rahul Tewatia stationed at long-on.

Players exchange handshakes after the match between Gujarat Titans and Mumbai Indians.(ANI)
Players exchange handshakes after the match between Gujarat Titans and Mumbai Indians.(ANI)

In isolation, nothing much should be read into that dismissal apart from the fact that it was just a bouncer that was too good for Pandya, But factor in the dismissals of Tim David, Gerald Coetzee and Piyush Chawla—all off what would have been the second short ball of the over—and these maybe the first signs of fast bowlers trying to make the most of the BCCI’s decision to legalise the second bouncer in an over before this season.

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Of course the ground dimensions are a major influence here. Among the bigger grounds in India, Ahmedabad’s straighter boundaries are 73m on the longer side, and that proved to be too much for Pandya. It can’t be a one-size-fits-all strategy though, given even mishits clear the rope easily at grounds with smaller dimensions (Chennai’s straight boundaries are around 66m on both sides). But in Ahmedabad, it definitely proved to be a dealbreaker. Knowing it and exploiting it are two different things though. Thankfully for Titans though, Ashish Nehra was aware of both the dimensions’ hindrance at Ahmedabad as well as Pandya’s penchant for the pull. And with 19 runs required off the last six balls, Yadav could afford to go for the jugular.

Mumbai Indians shouldn’t have been at that position in the first place, given they had batted themselves to needing 62 off 48 balls with eight wickets in hand. But Sai Kishore trapping Rohit Sharma leg-before after he missed a sweep triggered an unforeseen collapse. That was Kishore’s fourth over on the trot, and having conceded just 24 runs in all of them, Kishore had not allowed Mumbai Indians to smoothly shift gears in the middle overs.

“When you bowl four overs on the trot, it's more like a one-day match. So you can be in rhythm. It is a lot easier,” said Kishore after Titans’ close win. “Because the wicket was two-paced, we tried to go into the wicket a lot more, trust our length a lot more than directly going for yorkers. That resulted in getting a lot of wickets. It was attacking bowling even if the situation was otherwise.”

It also helped that Mohit Sharma set the tone of the slog overs with a slew of slower deliveries, not allowing the batters to get pace off the pitch to work with. “He's (Mohit) been a revelation ever since he has come, last year as well,” said new Gujarat Titans captain Shubman Gill later. “I thought 170 was a good score but we definitely left 10-15 out there but that happens. They were also going well, and they were above par, but it became hard to hit the old ball and the wicket became a bit slow.”

Applying hard brakes on the chase however was the 17th over where Rashid Khan conceded only three but it wasn’t entirely his doing. Tilak Varma and Tim David could have run two after David’s huge slog fell between long-on and deep midwicket but settled for one. Next ball, with MI needing 38 from 22, Varma turned down a single after clipping a length ball to deep midwicket. Pandya didn’t want to read too much into that phase though. “I think Tilak felt that was a better idea at that point of time. I completely back him, not an issue, 13 games to go,” he said.

It did build up the pressure though. Sharma completed his spell in the 18th over, conceding just nine runs when the asking rate was 12. Bowling the penultimate over, Spencer Johnson was hammered for a six off the first ball but he bounced back with the dismissals of Varma and Coetzee. It all came down to Pandya, but this time the bouncer got the better of him.

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