Royal Challengers Bangalore suffered their seventh defeat in the 12th edition of the Indian Premier League as they went down by five wickets against Mumbai Indians on Monday. With the season crossing its halfway mark, it was an important game for both teams as the race for the playoffs intensifies.

Mumbai Indians, having lost to Rajasthan Royals at home in their last match, were eager to set things right at the Wankhede Stadium. Virat Kohli and his team, on the other hand, were keen to build momentum after finally claiming their first win. But it wasn’t to be for the visitors, as Lasith Malinga and Hardik Pandya provided key contributions to see the hosts through.

Asked to bat first, after Rohit Sharma won the toss and lived up to the trend of electing to field, RCB got off to the worst possible start as skipper Kohli was dismissed for eight runs by Jason Behrendorff in the third over.

Parthiv Patel [28 off 20] and AB de Villiers fought well on a seaming pitch to stitch together a 37-run second-wicket partnership, before the latter got together with Moeen Ali, who scored a counter-attacking 50 off 32, to add 95 runs for the third wicket.

At the start of the 17th over, RCB were 144/2 with both Ali and De Villiers at the crease. They had done a good job of preserving wickets till then and had set the base for a final push. However, from that point on, things didn’t quite go as per plan for the visitors.

ABD’s unfortunate run-out

Malinga removed Ali and the dangerous Marcus Stoinis in the 17th over with masterful slower-balls. The Sri Lankan fast-bowler was back in the side, replacing Alzarri Joseph who was ruled out of the tournament with a dislocated shoulder, and didn’t take time to pick up from where he had left off. Even then, there was still hope of a strong finish for RCB as ABD was at the crease.

The South African creamed Jasprit Bumrah for two boundaries through covers in the penultimate over, before smacking a six off the first ball of the final over by Malinga. RCB had reached 168/4 with five more deliveries to come for a rampaging De Villiers to feast on. But that’s when, perhaps, the biggest game-changing moment of the match happened.

De Villiers hit the second ball of the last over towards long-on and set off quickly for a two. Akshdeep Nath at the non-striker’s end, though, had other plans. The 25-year-old from Uttar Pradesh sent ABD back as the latter turned around for the second run. Kieron Pollard produced yet another moment of genius in the field and got a direct hit from the boundary and De Villiers couldn’t get back in time. He was run-out for a brilliant 75 off 51, and RCB’s hopes of a final flourish had come crashing down.

It was a blunder of epic proportions on Nath’s part to not go for the second run even if there wasn’t any chance of making it. Of course, ABD could’ve done better to get back and Pollard’s effort can’t be lauded enough, but it was Nath’s error in judgment that cost RCB some crucial runs. “It was important for us to get AB’s wicket, it made a difference of 15-20 runs.” Hardik would go on to admit after the match.

RCB pacers lose the plot

Set a target of just 172 on a high-scoring ground, Mumbai Indians all but finished the contest within the powerplay. Skipper Sharma and his opening partner Quinton de Kock came out all guns blazing. They were allowed to cut and pull with ease as RCB pace bowlers failed miserably to find the right length. Although spinners Yuzvendra Chahal and Pawan Negi bowled an over each in the powerplay and conceded just six and three runs respectively, it didn’t stop the hosts from racing to 70 for no loss in seven overs.

This was due to some very average bowling from Umesh Yadav, Navdeep Saini and Mohammed Siraj. In a chase where Mumbai had to score at 8.50 runs per over, each of RCB’s three fast-bowlers returned with economy rates of 10.50 and above. Umesh was the worst of the lot at 12.50.

Middle overs pain for MI

The Royal Challengers came back in the game thanks to Ali’s brilliant eighth over where the off-spinner removed both Sharma and De Kock. However, Mumbai were still in the driver’s seat and needed 99 to win from 72 deliveries with eight wickets in hand. A comfortable position to be in considering today’s power game. But from there, they eventually ended up in a tricky situation where they required 22 runs from 12 balls. This was because of their poor use, yet again, of the middle overs.

Suryakumar Yadav [29 off 23], Ishan Kishan [21 off 9] and Krunal Pandya [11 off 21] failed to make the most of another opportunity. The trio’s inability to take their team to victory highlights the struggle Mumbai has faced this season with regards to their upper middle order. Throw Yuvraj Singh into the mix and the numbers don’t make for a promising picture either. The three-time champions have benefitted greatly from Hardik and Pollard’s form with the bat, but that doesn’t hide the fact that the batsmen right above them aren’t contributing enough.

Mumbai's middle order batsmen in IPL 2019

Player Innings Runs Strike-rate
Suryakumar Yadav 8 183 135.55
Yuvraj Singh 4 98 130.66
Ishan Kishan 4 50 116.27
Krunal Pandya 7 103 114.44

Mumbai Indians finally got over the line thanks to an unbeaten 37 off just 16 deliveries from Hardik. The all-rounder, who has been striking the ball remarkably well this season, took left-arm spinner Negi for 22 runs in the penultimate over to finish the match.

The Royal Challengers could well have gotten their second victory of the tournament had De Villiers been allowed to cash in on the last four deliveries, or had their pacers bowled with more discipline in the powerplay. The visitors were even aided by an uninspiring performance from Mumbai’s middle order. Hardik, though, was going to have none of it.