The first boundary was a slightly ungainly one, but it had power behind it, lots of it. Till then, Akshar Patel, bowling the 13th over, had done well to tuck Corey Anderson up with a leg-stump line. When he erred, providing the muscular Kiwi with exactly what he was waiting for — some width — Anderson freed his arms with a double-handed backhand with his cricket bat.
The Kings XI Punjab left-arm spinner corrected his line for the next ball, but Anderson had gotten his measure by now. He cleared his right-foot and deposited Patel over mid-wicket with a six straight out of the highlight reel from his 36-ball record-breaking ton in Queenstown. Then came a repeat of the first boundary, Anderson responding to width with a backhand. Fourteen runs had now come off three deliveries, and rather than get into his young spinner’s ear, George Bailey decided to set a field for the bad ball, putting himself just in front of the sight-screen, freeing up square-leg. Patel’s next delivery drifted into Anderson’s pads, allowing the Mumbai Indians’ big-money buy to swat his fourth straight boundary in that vacant area.
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The 23-year-old left-hander had muscled 20 runs off the Patel over. An over, where he began to justify Mumbai’s gamble to pay Rs. 4.5 crore for his services. The mini-assault was necessary too. After a brisk start, Mumbai had allowed the required-rate to climb to 10 an over, with 80 still needed, by the time Patel began the 13th over of their innings. By the end of it, Anderson had not only proven his worth but also gotten the home team’s run-chase back on track. And even though he would fall soon after, following a 25-ball 35, Kieron Pollard would step in to seal the deal with characteristically brutal flourish.
The Trinidadian would match Anderson’s blitz, by smashing 20 runs off Mitchell Johnson in the penultimate over to set up Mumbai’s first win for the season and to bring an end to Punjab’s unbeaten run. The five-wicket win also ensured that the defending champions had secured their citadel, one where they were insurmountable last season.
Some return on investment
When Mumbai paid Rs 4.5 crore for Anderson in February, his subcontinent experience was limited to a handful of matches for New Zealand A and a series in Bangladesh. Yes, he had ensured that Shahid Afridi’s fastest ODI century record had finally been eclipsed only a month earlier. Yes, he had shown that he possessed the skills to send the white ball into orbit. But he remained a green-horn in these alien conditions. For a better part of Mumbai’s UAE campaign, Anderson hardly came to the party, his strike-rate failing to even cross 100 by the end of it. Here he not only helped his team get off the mark in IPL7, at the end of the day he had also managed to upstage his forerunner-Mumbai’s million-dollar buy from last year, Glenn Maxwell.
Not that Maxwell didn’t light up his former home ground with a typically thrill-a-minute 45 off just 27 deliveries. But Punjab’s hero with the bat was an unlikely one. It was Wriddhiman Saha’s unbeaten 59 that ensured that the table-toppers crossed 150 despite wickets falling around him. Incidentally it would prove to be a day for wicket-keepers, with Aditya Tare scoring a vital 11-ball 16 in the dying moments of Mumbai’s chase in a match-winning partnership with Pollard. That is after CM Gautam had given the hosts the early momentum in his new role as opener with an innovation-filled 33. Though Mumbai would lose ground for a few overs after Gautam’s departure, Anderson made sure they were back on track and well on their way to their first win of the season.