From the moment they’ve touched down in the city last week, the Mumbai Indians camp has exuded muted confidence, which is uncanny for a team that hadn’t won a match and was languishing at the bottom of the eight-team IPL table. They were happy to be back at their fortress, the Wankhede, where they haven’t lost a match in a season-and-a-half. The win over table-toppers King XI Punjab last Saturday further had boosted their confidence.
But even before the celebrations could die down, a bigger and much stiffer challenge awaited them. However, all the doubts were laid to rest after Mumbai Indians stitched together a fine overall performance to record their second consecutive win and beat Royal Challengers Bangalore by 19 runs here on Tuesday’s night.
While the win would certainly be pleasing, the manner in which Mumbai went about their job would be even more gratifying for coach John Wright.
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In the six matches before the RCB tie this season, the formidable Mumbai batting line-up had failed to live up to the hype. Save for an odd knock by one of the players, there was little for them to boast about — the openers weren’t getting desired starts, the big-hitting middle order wasn’t clicking and consequently, the bowlers were left to defend paltry sums.
But it all came together on Tuesday night. Mumbai looked an outfit that played with an air of being the title holders — they batted with controlled aggression, bowled with precision and took some fine catches as well.
CM Gautam enhanced his reputation with another sturdy knock at the top (30), which helped the hosts get off to a solid start — a luxury their middle order hasn’t had so far this season. And they ensured it wasn’t wasted. It did seem that Mumbai had lost their way mid-way through their innings but the ugly spat between Mitchell Starc and Kieron Pollard fired them up.
In fact, tempers flared and expletives were blurted out by both sets of players for the entire match. Every Mumbai wicket was met with an in-your-face celebration by the Bangalore bowlers — be it the young Yuzvendra Chahal or the experienced Mitchell Starc.
But Rohit Sharma and Pollard, who were neatly contained by RCB bowlers then, ensured their aggression was channeled in the right direction. They went for the kill and scored 54 runs in the last 22 balls, after managing just 44 in the previous six overs, to set up a target of 188 for the visitors.
The question really was, would it prove to be enough.
Mumbai’s bowlers have fared marginally better than the batsman so far but with the firepower that RCB possess, especially with Chris Gayle and AB de Villiers in their ranks, and with Zaheer Khan out, no total seemed beyond RCB’s reach.
And the West Indian, who is yet to make his presence felt this season, made his intentions clear, smashing Pawan Suyal for 25 runs in the third over, setting up the platform for an exciting run chase. Parthiv Patel quietly went about his stuff at the other end before Harbhajan Singh removed both the openers in similar fashion.
Bangalore were undeterred despite the twin blows, with Virat Kohli chipping in with a breezy 35. But he was found wanting for support as wickets continued to fall at regular intervals at the other end.
Kohli’s wicket in the 14th over tilted the balance in Mumbai’s favour, who went on to record their second win of the season, which helped them leapfrog to sixth place on the table.
Aussie vs West Indian, the fight continues
For a split-second, Mitchell Starc flinched. The sight of a six-foot-plus giant hurling his bat at him in a fit of rage unnerved the Australian. But this wasn’t the time to back out. Starc charged towards the batting crease, where Kieron Pollard was held back by his compatriot Chris Gayle. Virat Kohli tried to pacify an enraged Starc, ensuring things didn’t get nastier.
The incident seemed to fire-up Mumbai Indians. In the six overs preceding the incident, the hosts had managed just 44 runs. In the three overs and four balls following the spat Mumbai scored 54 runs to set up a daunting total of 188 for RCB. However, the tiff overshadowed the closely-fought encounter between the two teams on a balmy evening at the Wankhede.
It began on the second ball of the 16th over, when Starc surprised Pollard with a bouncer. Pollard tried in vain to smack it out of the park. The Australian casually walked towards the batsman and shot off a few words at him. Pollard nonchalantly shooed him back. Routine stuff, one would think.
But it got ugly the following ball. Pollard moved away with Starc half-way through his run-up. And just when it seemed that the bowler too had backed away, Starc fired the ball towards the West Indian. An angry Pollard flung his bat at the bowler but luckily it slipped out of his hand and dropped near him.
“It seems to be the case between Kieron and a lot of Australian players, but you can’t throw your bat at others,” Starc remarked. Starc would
The bad-blood between players from these two countries dates back to the 70s and has only gotten uglier in the last few years. Ironically, Gayle — who acted as a peacemaker between the two players on Tuesday — has been at the forefront of the spats. The Jamaican led an over-aggressive celebration over Australia in the World T20 earlier this year and has been involved in war of words with the likes of Brett Lee, James Faulker and Brad Haddin.
A couple of years ago, Marlon Samuels and Shane Warne were involved in what resembled a street-fight during the Big Bash.
Not too long ago, Dwayne Bravo had insisted that the IPL had helped in diffusing the decades of tension between the players of the two countries. But the Starc-Pollard episode has shown there’s no love lost between them.