Synopsis: Martin Guptill lays the platform for Krunal Pandya’s blitz. Mumbai Indians post an imposing 206/4 as Delhi Daredevils spinners leak runs. Then Delhi crumble in their chase
Guptill lays platform
The New Zealander’s selection was long overdue. All along, Mumbai Indians had been struggling to forge a right opening partnership. Strangely, though, Guptill had to sit out for close to a month before he got his second game in this IPL. His debut, against Sunrisers Hyderabad on April 18, didn’t go well as Bhuvneshwar Kumar removed him early with a gem of an outswinger. Mumbai, however, took a little too long to bring him back in the fold.
It proved to be a smart change. The defending champions had slumped to 92 all out and 124/9 against Sunrisers Hyderabad and Kings XI Punjab, respectively, in their previous two ‘home’ matches at ACA-VDCA Stadium in Vizag. They had been going with one fast bowler too many. In a must-win fixture, Guptill’s inclusion ensured there was just the right balance.
Zaheer Khan found the pitch “tricky” as he chose to field after winning the toss. Delhi started with left-arm spinner Shahbaz Nadeem and his first ball stopped on Rohit Sharma. The second delivery turned and jumped, and went past the outside edge. Rohit decided to counter attack. The sweep to the backward square leg was perhaps the shot of the match. He had to play it late, for there was a fielder at deep mid-wicket. Rohit showed excellent precision and control. A six over cover off the next ball was gorgeous. The Mumbai captain had struggled for timing in the last game. On Sunday, he was a lot more positive and played some delightful shots before Amit Mishra made one bounce a little more and Rishabh Pant took a good diving catch at point. Guptill’s presence allowed Mumbai to remain steady.
Short of game time, the opener looked a little rusty to start with. But Guptill’s reach gave him an advantage against the spinners. He waited for the loose balls, kept the scoreboard ticking with singles and twos, complemented Pandya’s aggression and laid into Imran Tahir with back-to-back sixes after getting into the groove. In between, he was hit on the helmet by a brilliantly-directed Zaheer Khan bouncer. But Guptill was too experienced to lose his composure. Zaheer dismissed him in his second spell, inducing him into a mis-timed lofted drive. But by then, 98 runs had been added (8.2 overs) for the second wicket. It laid the platform for a match-winning total.
The frame had a touch of irony. Krunal had just tonked Zaheer for a six over deep mid-wicket, when TV camera caught his brother Hardik in bibs, applauding the effort from the dugout. The left-hander has become more important for his IPL team during the course of the tournament and on Sunday evening, he returned to the dugout to a hero’s welcome. Pandya had deserved every bit of it after a 37-ball 86 (7 fours and 6 sixes) that took the game away from the opposition.
He was promoted to No. 3 with the licence to blitz. The alteration was made ostensibly to counter two leg-spinners and a left-arm spinner in the Delhi ranks. It was a smart choice, especially with Guptill at the other end. Pandya played fearless cricket.
From Mumbai’s point of view, it was imperative to subdue Delhi’s dangerous leggie Mishra. Pandya hit him for a six and a four in the ninth over. He was playing with the turn and aiming the vacant areas. The leggie brought out his new variation – a fast seam-up delivery. But Pandya picked it early and dispatched it to the long-off fence. It was excellent cricket from the 25-year-old.
Imran Tahir and Nadeem weren’t spared either. Pandya collected 69 runs from the three Delhi spinners in 27 balls. Eventually, paceman Chris Morris breached his defence at the back end of the innings and Pandya walked into his brother’s embrace. Sachin Tendulkar gave a nod of approval.
Spinners leak runs
The Delhi spinners collectively had an off day, leaking 143 runs in 12 overs for one wicket. Tahir suffered badly, conceding 59 runs — including a 23-run over — in his quota. Mishra and Nadeem returned with 1/42 and 0/42 respectively. The appearance of the pitch perhaps made them a little overexcited. Zaheer showed them the virtue of sticking to basics with a miserly bowling performance. Morris, too, came back well at the death.
Quinton de Kock’s departure sapped the life out Delhi’s chase. The in-form left-hander had been showing intent, an improbable victory target of 207 notwithstanding. He hit Vinay Kumar for three fours and a six to have a 19-run over. Thanks to his charge, Delhi had reached 49/2 in Powerplay. But Pandya, who else, intervened to make things lop-sided for Mumbai.
De Kock was not happy with the caught behind decision. His bat probably had hit Jos Buttler’s glove. But the umpire thought otherwise and that was that. Mumbai eventually won by 80 runs to stay alive. Jasprit Bumrah picked 3/13 to hasten Delhi’s collapse. But it was Pandya’s bright night and he dedicated the Man of the Match award to his parents.