Mumbai Indians kept themselves alive in the Indian Premier League after nicking a three-run win against Kings XI Punjab at the Wankhede Stadium on Wednesday.

Put into bat by Punjab, Mumbai posted 186/8 on the board thanks to a 65-run partnership between Kieron Pollard (50 off 23 balls) and Krunal Pandya (32 off 23 balls) after the hosts were reeling at 71/4 at one stage.

Andrew Tye picked up four wickets in a match for the third time this season, but his heroics were overshadowed by Jasprit Bumrah, whose 3/15 was crucial as Mumbai defended their total despite KL Rahul’s valiant 94.

Here are the talking points from the match.

‘Boom boom’ Bumrah overshadows ‘Knuckle ball’ Tye

Andrew Tye was tossed the ball by his captain at a tricky time. It was the fourth over of the innings and Suryakumar Yadav had just whacked Tye’s fellow pacer Ankit Rajpoot for two sixes and as many fours in the previous over. Mumbai had raced along to 37/0 in three overs.

But Tye was not fazed and he stuck to doing what he does best: bowl the knucke ball. Evin Lewis was dismissed first ball by the Aussie pacer with a knuckle ball that jagged back in and found the gap between Lewis’s bat and pad to hit the woodwork. The rest of the over was a peach as well, as Ishan Kishan had no idea what to make of Tye’s variations.

Kishan’s patience did not take long to wear off as, in Tye’s next over, he went for a big premeditated heave looking to clear long-on but could only find the hands of Marcus Stoinis at mid-on. No surprises, it was the knuckle ball again. The very next delivery, Yadav tried to go for a short-arm jab to deep square-leg but could only nick to the keeper. Tye’s figured read 3/5 in his first two overs.

Ashwin decided to save his trump card for the death, and the next time Tye was handed the ball, it was the 17th over. Again, he mixed it up well with length balls, short deliveries and slower ones. He did not pick up a wicket but conceded only three runs, putting pressure on Mumbai. The wicket eventually arrived in his final over and – surprise, surprise – it was the knuckle ball again as Hardik Pandya cut him to short third-man.

Tye ended up with 4/16 in his four overs, a heavy favourite to take the Purple Cap of the season, with 24 wickets in total. He might as well make ‘Knuckleball’ his middle name.

Unfortunately for Tye, Bumrah went on to steal his thunder. The India pacer took one wicket less than the Australian but was almost solely responsible for Punjab not getting past the finish line. Mumbai captain Rohit Sharma also has to be given credit for using Bumrah really well – he got one over at the start of the innings, one in the middle and two in the death.

Bumrah, like Tye, mixed it up really well with yorkers, slower deliveries and quick bouncers. He kept it tight and straight, not allowing the Punjab batters to free their arms. It seemed like he was very clear in his head of what he has to do and how he has to bowl, which does not come easily to everyone. In a must-win match for Mumbai, their ace bowler delivered – and how!

Ashwin’s puzzling decisions

Despite Tye’s brilliance, the fact that Mumbai ended up with 186 after they were 70-odd for four in the ninth over could perhaps be put down to the fact that Punjab captain R Ashwin did not bowl in the middle overs.

Ashwin first bowled in the eighth over of the innings and did a decent job, giving away only five runs. However, the next time he decided to have a go was in the 16th over. Between then, Mumbai went from 71/3 to 151/5 in just seven overs.

Marcus Stoinis bowled three overs in that period and conceded 44 runs, taking just the one wicket. Rajpoot was also hit for 18 runs in one of his overs, including a six and two fours by Pollard, who recovered his form and raced to a half-century in just 22 balls.

When Ashwin finally came on in the 16th over, he got rid of Pollard immediately. This raised the question of why he did not bowl himself earlier, when Mumbai were wobbling? Was he saving himself for the death overs?

R Ashwin has eight wickets in 13 matches this season (Image: Sportzpics)
R Ashwin has eight wickets in 13 matches this season (Image: Sportzpics)

Ashwin bowled two overs for 13 runs and took two wickets in the death, but then inexplicably did not complete his quota. He could have bowled the 20th over but decided to hand the ball to Mohit Sharma, who had gone for 25 runs in two wicketless overs prior to this.

Ashwin has not had the best IPL as a bowler. He had taken only six wickets in 12 matches prior to Wednesday. Did he have no confidence in his own bowling? That can’t be a good sign.

His puzzling decisions as captain were not restricted to the bowling. His decision to promote Axar Patel, a pinch hitter at best, over Manoj Tiwary and Yuvraj Singh at No 5 was again a surprising one.

KXIP were at 149/3, needing 38 off 19 balls, when Patel was sent in. Yes, if Patel has a good day and connects, he is capable of getting those runs but the fact that Ashwin opted to go for him instead of Tiwary and Yuvraj, who he had brought into the team on Wednesday in place of Mayank Agarwal and Karun Nair, just shows that the skipper has no confidence in his regular batsmen. Again, not a good sign.

KL Rahul’s knock goes in vain, again

KL Rahul must be getting tired. Tired of having to carry his team’s batting in every single match. And mostly in a losing cause.

Rahul scored his sixth half-century of the season on Wednesday and almost went on to hit a hundred before being dismissed for 94 off 59 balls. When he got out, the score was 167/4 in 18.3 overs, meaning Kings XI needed 20 from the last nine balls – not unheard of in T20 cricket, especially with six wickets in hand.

But as Yuvraj Singh came in and missed juicy length balls – which he would have dispatched over deep mid-wicket with a blindfold on a decade ago – before eventually holing out, it spoke volumes about Kings XI’s one-man batting army. The below chart is a telling picture.

Minimum matches played: 7
Minimum matches played: 7

It’s not too often that the highest run-scorer during the league phase of the IPL does not get a chance to add to his tally in the playoffs, but Kings XI Punjab’s over-reliance on the India batter could just lead to that.

Kings XI now need a huge win against Chennai Super Kings in their final league match to make the playoffs, considering their net run-rate is -0.490. Given the form CSK are in, and the incapability of the rest of the Punjab batters, Rahul would probably need to score a 200 himself to make that happen.