When Mumbai Indians and Royal Challengers Bangalore have squared off in Indian Premier League matches in the past, the spectators have been in for a fair bit of drama with a whole lot of needling between the two sides grabbing headlines.
On Wednesday, the capacity crowd at Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai had no such luck, but was in for a real treat with Rohit Sharma and Kieron Pollard playing starring roles as Mumbai returned to winning ways after three losses in four games prior to this one. They rode on Rohit’s half-century and Pollard’s blitz (39 not out off 19 balls) to seal a comfortable six-wicket win.
Wholesale changes—both forced and tactical—in the Bangalore lineup had little effect as they put up 170 for 7 in 20 overs. In reply, Mumbai chipped away at the target without too much trouble, reaching 171 for 4 with two overs to spare.
Mumbai came out all guns blazing and weren’t bogged down by the early dismissal of Parthiv Patel. The Rohit-Ambati Rayudu show took the focus away from the target as the five overs following Parthiv’s dismissal accounted for 45 runs. Bowler after bowler was deposited deep into the stands, and when the most experienced of them all—Shane Watson—was left searching for answers, there was little hope for the others.
The second-wicket stand between Rohit and Rayudu amounted to 76 runs in 9.1 overs. And then it was up to Iqbal Abdulla, replacing Yuzvendra Chahal in one of Bangalore’s six changes on the night, to finally provide a breakthrough when Rayudu’s slog found Kane Richardson at deep midwicket.
Rohit, who brought up his half-century off 35 balls, was fluidity personified. Without slogging even once, he had enough skill to finish with three sixes and four fours in scoring 62 in 44 balls. If he couldn’t find the fence, he at least found the gaps well. But Bangalore had some respite when Rohit mistimed Abdulla to finally depart.
But Jos Buttler and Pollard, replacing Martin Guptill in Mumbai’s XI, ensured the frenetic pace of scoring didn’t dip despite the dismissals. The duo took on seamers and spinners alike on the way to a 31-run stand off just 16 balls.
By the time Buttler became Abdulla’s third victim, after smashing consecutive sixes, Mumbai were 140 for 4, needing just 31 runs off 26 balls. A flurry of fours and sixes from Pollard ensured Mumbai didn’t have to break much sweat from there on.
Earlier, after winning the toss, Rohit didn’t hesitate to insert Bangalore in on a pitch that had some green. Led by Tim Southee, Mumbai’s pace attack held its own for the first three overs when the ball ducked around a little. Mitchell McClenaghan even welcomed KL Rahul to the Bangalore top order with a ferocious bouncer that sent the opener to the floor.
Making full use of the pace and bounce, McClenaghan continued his short-ball barrage, but Rahul used it to good effect later on to hit consecutive sixes, and then flicked one to the fine-leg fence. However, McClenaghan had the final laugh with a short ball that Rahul hit straight to Harbhajan Singh at first slip.
Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers went about their business as usual, like they had in the previous two matches. Stepping on the accelerator from the start, they took on Hardik Pandya and Harbhajan in between some quick singles and doubles.
Kohli and de Villiers threatened to take the aerial route often but Mumbai’s fielders were always on their toes. And it was Krunal Pandya’s second over—the 11th of the Bangalore innings—that shifted the momentum their way. The left-arm spinner ensured his CV was decorated with the wickets of Kohli and de Villiers—both in one over. While Kohli (33 in 30 balls) sent a slower one straight to Southee at the long-off boundary, de Villiers (29 off 21 balls) charged down the track and was stumped five deliveries later, prompting Krunal, who ended with 2 for 27, to charge off on an Imran Tahir-like celebration.
Bangalore were 93 for 3 then, and with two new batsmen in Watson and Travis Head at the crease, the scoring rate dipped. That added to Watson’s agony, and Mumbai soon had their reward when Jasprit Bumrah elicited an edge with a short ball that was caught behind by Parthiv.
Had it not been for the 63-run fifth-wicket stand between Head, replacing Chris Gayle who is away on paternity duty, and Sarfaraz Khan, Bangalore would have had to settle for much less. While Sarfaraz got off the mark with a well-timed boundary off Bumrah, Head, who was struggling to connect at the start, followed suit, that too in style, depositing a length ball into the stands near square leg. The duo stepped on the gas thereafter, Sarfaraz’s cheeky ramp shots met with Head’s swipes over long-on and midwicket.
It wasn’t until the last over, where Bumrah bagged two wickets and Mumbai got three, that the brakes were finally applied. First, Head ran himself out while attempting a risky double, then Sarfaraz’s scoop found Krunal at third man, and finally Stuart Binny became Bumrah’s third victim, caught in the deep.
Such was the manner of Bangalore’s defeat that it was hard to find any silver lining. From Mumbai’s point of view, if they needed a morale-boosting win, this was it.
Disha Shetty is senior sub-editor at Wisden India. Mint has a content partnership with Wisden India for the IPL 9 season.