The strange beast that’s scoreboard pressure
Scoreboard pressure is a strange beast. It can choke up even the best. Even the nerveless ones. Even Steve Smith and MS Dhoni can succumb. For majority of the game, it seemed Mumbai Indians had stuffed this one up royally, crawling to a small total of 128, and Pune seemed in control of the chase. After all, they hadn’t lost many wickets, and Smith and Dhoni were out there. Who better than them to stub out any late resistance from Mumbai?
Smith, the ghost who walks all around the crease, and Dhoni, who stays still and kills, could have done it but weren’t allowed by a Mumbai who refused to fade out. When Dhoni joined Smith, the equation read: 59 from 49. Perhaps, Pune were a bit defensive until then, but they had decided to be cautious, keep the wickets, get the singles and twos, and finish it in the end. But 59 from 49 should still have been done but here is when Mumbai began their revival.
Karn Sharma kept it tight, so did Krunal and Malinga and all of a sudden Pune found themselves needing 47 from 30. Smith lashed a boundary off Malinga but Jaspirt Bumrah, one of the best death bowlers in the world, came back to take out Dhoni with a leg cutter. It cut away from Dhoni who had a slash but could only edge it to the keeper Parthiv Patel.
With pressure escalating, Rohit Sharma and co. swooped in for the kill. They knew Bumrah had three overs, and Malinga and Mitchell Johnson had overs up their sleeves, and they had to contend with that man Smith. A reverse-swat for a six off Krunal, a whiplash flick off Malinga, but still the game seemed to run away from Smith when he decided to intervene with a game-turning six off Bumrah to get the equation down to 13 from 7.
It was a full-length delivery from Bumrah, and all that movement at the crease can seemingly hinder hitting the ball straight down the ground but not with Smith. Somehow, he retains his balance that all options are still open to him. And he crunched that full-length delivery over long-off for a six that should have sealed the game but Mumbai had one final throw of dice in Johnson.
Johnson isn’t the greatest final-over bowler of our times but he has the arsenal to turn it up when needed. He has the slower ones, the pacy Yorkers, the ability to bounce if needed, and he can sling them across from round the stumps even. Needing 11, Manoj Tiwary shuffled across to the off to sweep a slower one to square-leg boundary. Game over? Johnson pulled his hair back, ran in, and slipped in another slower one. Tiwary had backed outside leg, seemingly ready for the slower one but such was the slowness in the track that he ended up dragging the ball down to Pollard at long-on.
Next ball was the game-sealer. Standing deep inside the crease, Smith had the right idea. He crunched a fullish delivery pretty well but Ambati Rayudu intervened at sweeper cover with the game-turning catch. Darkness and gloom descended in Smith’s world. Rohit Shama went nuts in utter delirium as joy and sorrow collided in that one moment.
The unglamorous Pandya
The unglamorous Krunal Pandya was fielding at deep midwicket for the final ball. Until then, barring a dropped catch to reprieve Ajinkya Rahane, he had done everything he could do to ensure Mumbai stayed in the hunt. When nearly everyone else in his team had almost choked, and couldn’t buy a run, he had shown great tenacity and skill to give them something to bowl. Without him, there wouldn’t have any scoreboard pressure to sink in Pune. Without him, the game would have probably be done by 11 pm. Just hit the ball” It was an exasperated cry from Kevin Pietersen on air aimed at Mumbai Indians. Nerves shot, they batted like men who knew their evening was going to be a disaster.
Only Krunal hadn’t bought into that self-fulfilling prophecy. He drove, cut, pushed, nurdled, swept and punched his way, dragging Mumbai past 100. When no one could only reall get hold of Jaydev Unadkat’s slower ones, he slugged a six in the 19th over. He helped loot 14 runs in the final over of Dan Christian which would make the difference between win and loss in the end. Krunal also not only bowled with the new ball but also squeezed in the pressure to ensure Pune didn’t get away in the middle overs.
Now there was just one ball left in the match and unsurprisingly, it found its way towards Krunal in the deep. He ran to his left, swooped with his palms but the ball wouldn’t stick. Just a ball earlier, he had seen his brother Hardik drop a tough catch. This wasn’t a catch; he had stopped the four but the ball had to be returned to the keeper to prevent the super-over scenario.
He looked up but the ball popped out and rolled some distance away to the front. He retained his calm, got to the ball again, gathered and ripped a lovely one-bounce throw to Parthiv Patel who whipped off the bails. It was Krunal who resuscitated them with a gritty character-revealing knock, and befittingly it was him who finished the job in the end.