Synopsis: Mumbai Indians top-order fizzles, thanks to poor shot selection. Marcus Stoinis returns with career-best T20 figures before some common sense batting from Murali Vijay and Wriddhiman Saha sees Kings XI Punjab through
Rohit Sharma seemed to have won a pretty vital toss. The surface at ACA-VDCA Stadium was expected to play slower and lower as the game progressed. The Mumbai captain had no hesitation in opting to bat first. He started off beautifully, with a delectable leg glance for four in the first ball.
Unmukt Chand eventually got a game but bungled the opportunity. He tried a short-arm pull to a Mohit Sharma outswinger that pitched outside the off stump and was moving further away.
Gurkeerat Singh took a simple catch at mid-on. Very poor shot selection. Sandeep Sharma accounted for Ambati Rayudu in the next over. The ball broke back prodigiously from outside the off stump and went through the gate as Rayudu attempted an expansive drive without moving his feet. Once again, a poor shot that led to his downfall. Early wickets forced Rohit to go into a shell. Only 21 runs had been scored in Powerplay; lowest in this IPL.
Young Nitish Rana tried to up the ante with sixes off Mohit and KC Cariappa, but Rohit misjudged the length and trajectory of an Axar Patel delivery, played over the ball and lost his off stump. Then, Stoinis took over.
The Australian all-rounder was roped in for Rs 55 lakh in the IPL 9 auction and the 26-year-old has contributed well in the six matches he played so far.
Today, he put in a special performance to thwart a Mumbai recovery. A well-set Rana was his first scalp, done in by an off-cutter with Saha taking a smart catch behind the stumps.
Kieron Pollard came to a ‘warm’ welcome from Glenn Maxwell, who apparently looked keen to know the big man’s weight. Pollard’s response was a shimmy down the track but Stoinis had spotted the charge and dragged his length back. The ball jarred into the grille. The Trinidadian then put his head down as rebuilding became the order of the day.
Stoinis, however, removed Jos Buttler to reduce the opposition to 61/5. Gurkeerat took the skier at long-off on the third attempt. Mumbai were under the cosh, badly needing a decent partnership to get out of the woods. A quickfire 42-run sixth wicket stand between Pollard and Krunal Pandya raised hopes. The former took a couple of sixes off Cariappa.
Pandya dispatched a full-length Patel delivery over the long-off fence before Pollard whipped the left-arm spinner for another maximum. The momentum looked to be shifting.
But Stoinis came back and dismissed Pandya and Pollard in successive balls. The left-hander mistimed his pull to a short ball on the leg stump and was holed out to Patel at deep mid-wicket. Pollard attempted a mighty heave to a full delivery and was cleaned up. Once again, Mumbai suffered for their batsmen’s indiscretion. Harbhajan’s 14 not out off 10 balls gave the total some respectability, but Stoinis was the man of the moment – and Man of the Match – returning with 4/15; his career-best T20 figures.
Common sense batting
Punjab came into this game on the heels of several off the field controversies. They needed a strong performance to regain their belief. After restricting Mumbai to 124 for 9, they just needed some common sense batting upfront.
Hashim Amla departed in the first over, being trapped leg before by a superb Tim Southee inswinger.
But Vijay was calmness personified and had an able ally in Saha. Together they added 116 runs for the second wicket to slam the door shut on the opponents. Saha made 56 off 40 balls before he was out in the 16th over. Vijay remained unbeaten on 54 off 52. He has taken captaincy like a duck to water and is leading from the front.
The best thing about the partnership, however, was the way the duo picked their bowlers. The ball was turning. So, both Vijay and Saha were circumspect against Harbhajan and Pandya before they threw caution to the wind, when victory was well within sight. Vijay hit his first six in the 14th over – a swat off Pandya over deep mid-wicket. He followed it up with a four.
The two batsmen rather targeted Mitchell McClenaghan, who was a bit off colour tonight. Vijay took three fours off him and Saha hit another one, facing three balls from the bowler. The spinners were attacked only when things became very comfortable.
The defeat put the defending champions on the brink. They now have to win two-in-two to be in the playoffs.