A Mumbai Indians backlash was expected after the defeat on home patch in Qualifier 1. Kolkata Knight Riders found themselves at the receiving end of it at Chinnaswamy on Friday.
Karn Sharma scythed through the Kolkata top order, finishing with his career best IPL figures; four for 16. It was a fantastic reward for his guile and bowling discipline.
Sunil Narine led the Kolkata procession. Mumbai fast bowlers had kept the makeshift Kolkata opener in check, bowling at his ribs and offering very little room to manoeuvre. The only forcing shot he could manage was a six off Lasith Malinga, when the latter had missed his length a little. Karn had been called into action in the fifth over and Narine jumped out to break the shackles.
About a fortnight ago, Narine had decimated Samuel Badree on his way to IPL’s fastest-ever half-century. His strike-rate against the Bangalore leg-spinner was 300 in that game. The Mumbai leggie proved to be a different kettle of fish.
Karn had read the batsman’s mind and expected a premeditated charge. He held back his googly a little. Narine desperately attempted a leg side hoick but he was never going to get to the pitch of the ball. An easy stumping ensued.
Karn tried the same trick next over but Gautam Gambhir beautifully read the fight, covered the turn and drove it inside-out over cover for a four. On a pitch where the ball gripped, the Kolkata captain was his team’s best bet to neutralise the spin-punch, but he flattered to deceive.
Only four balls after that gorgeous hit, Gambhir tried to whip one against the turn over deep mid-wicket and found Hardik Pandya at the edge of the boundary. It was a poor shot in the context of the game and Kolkata went deeper in the mire, when Colin Grandhomme departed next ball; another googly that straightened after pitching and struck the Kiwi on the back leg right in front of the stumps – 31 for five. Karn finished his first spell with three for 11 in three overs. He came back to dismiss a well-set Ishank Jaggi towards the back end of the innings, putting a halt to a 56-run sixth wicket partnership. Not for nothing Harbhajan Singh is out of the reckoning at the moment.
Bumrah’s ‘fire and smile’
As Ankit Rajpoot somehow managed an inside edge to a Jasprit Bumrah yorker and French cut it to the fine leg boundary, the bowler broke into a smile. It had been pretty intense till then, with Mumbai treating this virtual semifinal like a mission. But Kolkata had lost nine wickets by then with 101 on the board and all but formality remained. After three wickets in three overs for just seven runs, the fast bowler had earned the right to be a little cheeky. He fired upfront to get rid of the dangerous Chris Lynn and then Robin Uthappa before accounting for Suryakumar Yadav at the death.
Bumrah bowled fast and straight to Lynn, denied him the opportunity to swing his arms and got him to a catch at deep mid-on. Uthappa was set up with a slower delivery followed by a 144 kph thunderbolt that the batsman missed, trying to play across the line.
Karn and Bumrah were the brightest stars in the constellation on the night, but Mumbai’s success in this match had been down to a superb collective bowling effort. Mitchell Johnson came in for the injured Mitchell McClenaghan and returned with two wickets.
Malinga took time to settle into a rhythm but found his yorkers in his final spell. Kolkata offered such little resistance that Pandya got just one over. Mumbai thrived in having arguably the best bench strength in this IPL. They revelled in Rohit Sharma’s captaincy.
Lynn’s wagon wheels show that even during his scintillating 93 not out off 41 balls in Kolkata’s tournament opener against Gujarat, he had hit just four boundaries square of the wicket.
The Mumbai captain did his homework brilliantly and as Lynn took strike, he dropped back the mid-on fielder. The plan was to bowl full at Lynn and cramp him. The batsman instinctively picked Kieron Pollard at deep mid-on.
When Jaggi tried to hit Karn over long-on and failed to get the elevation, Johnson didn’t have to move an inch to take the catch. Rohit was outstanding with his bowling changes and captaincy. He seemingly took Mumbai’s loss to Pune at Wankhede as an affront and motivated his troops for a backlash.
With the victory target set at 108, beating Kolkata third time on the spin in this IPL and reaching the final had been just a matter of time. Rohit offered assurance after three early wickets and Krunal Pandya played a smart knock to restore normality. Mumbai play the final against Pune, their bogey team (three losses) this term.