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Wednesday, October 27, 2021

IPL 2021: MI on a Mission

Big win over Royals keeps Rohit Sharma’s team in contention, along with KKR, for final Playoff spot

Written by Shamik Chakrabarty |
Updated: October 6, 2021 2:41:53 pm
Mumbai Indians beat Rajasthan Royals by 8 wickets (IPL)

Mumbai Indians couldn’t afford to lose this game. Another slip and the defending champions would have been out of this year’s Indian Premier League. They came into the win-or-bust contest against Rajasthan Royals with 10 points and a net run rate of -0.45. After an eight-wicket win with 70 balls to spare, they are now on 12 points with a net run rate of -0.04. The message was clear – never write them off, ever. With MI now breathing down Kolkata Knight Riders’ neck, the top-four scrap between the two teams is going down to the wire.

Royals had their fate in their own hands. Two wins in their last two group league fixtures would have taken them into the Playoffs. But their chances all but evaporated after 90/9 in 20 overs, batting first. MI’s carpe diem spirit prevailed, while Royals got overawed by the occasion.

Coulter-Nile, Neesham star in win

The game started to change from the fourth over onwards, when Nathan Coulter-Nile came into the attack. For the first three overs, Yashasvi Jaiswal and Evin Lewis were in command. Jaiswal’s pull for a four off Trent Boult attested the youngster’s improvement against the short ball. In the next over, off-spinner Jayant Yadav was taken to the cleaners by the two Royals openers.

Rohit Sharma brought on Jasprit Bumrah early and the fast bowler started off with a half-volley. The MI skipper shed his calmness and berated Bumrah. His team virtually had no room for error.

Coulter-Nile came and straightway hit the six-metre (from the popping crease) Sharjah length. He made one skid off the surface; Jaiswal misjudged its length and went for a cut, only to nick it behind the stumps.

Lewis probably played one shot too many – an attempted slog on the leg-side to a Bumrah delivery from around the wicket. He was caught plumb in front. Neesham, in his first game of the tournament, bagged Sanju Samson off his first ball. The wobble delivery had extra bounce, which accounted for the Royals captain. The Kiwi all-rounder was impeccable with his line and length. The Sharjah pitch became difficult for stroke-play once the ball got a bit older and the bowlers got protection in the deep. Hitting a good length, however, was key and Neesham did it for fun.

Shivam Dube, Royals’ hero against Chennai Super Kings, stretched out to play a widish delivery from Neesham, dragging it on to the stumps in the process. Glenn Phillips was bowled between his legs off Coulter-Nile, the six-metre length yet again doing the trick. The Royals retreated. Between the sixth and 16th overs, they scored just 33 runs. Between the sixth and 20 overs, only a four and a six were struck.

Royals also kept losing wickets, eventually getting flattened by the MI seamers. Coulter-Nile returned with 4/14 from four overs, Neesham claimed 3/12 and Bumrah had 2/14.

Plan B

MI’s team selection was bold. A seam-bowling allrounder, Neesham, came in for a spin-allrounder, Krunal Pandya. In such a big game, the seasoned Quinton de Kock was dropped for Ishan Kishan. Batting has troubled the five-time champions this term. The safer option would have been to include an extra batsman. The MI team management added an extra pacer instead.

The adaptability of their quicks was one of the highlights of the game. When the ball didn’t move in the air, Coulter-Nile and company rolled their fingers over the seam. They quickly figured out the right length and optimum speed. It was a night when MI were spotless in their planning and execution.

“It was challenging with the bat. Everyone has got their own plans and way of going about things. But Powerplay is important. Coulter-Nile is outstanding. It wasn’t swinging tonight, but we saw how he has a Plan B with his cutters,” Neesham told the host broadcasters during the innings break.

Champs stay afloat

MI had to win big. A paltry target of 91 made their job easier and Rohit showed intent from the outset. A 14-run over against Mustafizur Rahman gave MI’s innings the required momentum. Chetan Sakariya bowled a maiden at the other end, but Royals were woefully inconsistent. Under pressure, their quality slipped.

Samson missed an easy stumping of Rohit, with Shreyas Gopal being the unlucky bowler. Sakariya removed Rohit in the next over but welcomed Suryakumar Yadav with a full ball outside leg. A boundary ensued. Later, as MI inched closer to their victory target, Sakariya bowled back-to-back no-balls and got punished. Save Glenn Phillips’ electric fielding, Royals played poor cricket.

Kishan took a little bit of time to settle down before exploding. Three fours in a Kuldip Yadav over triggered an acceleration. He remained unbeaten on 50 off 25 balls on top of his three catches.

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