It might have been a silly statistic given the time frame, but the fact was that Mumbai Indians had lost all six of their Indian Premier League matches played in the United Arab Emirates before their match against Kolkata Knight Riders. The fact also was that MI enjoyed the most lopsided head-to-head record against KKR. Ultimately, something had to give in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday.
As it turned out, MI extended their win-loss record against KKR to 20-6; a win percentage of 77%.
At the center of a comprehensive 49-run win were the performances of two of their main men: Rohit Sharma and Jasprit Bumrah.
Bumrah came into IPL on the back of three wicketless outings in white-ball cricket (three ODIs against New Zealand) before cricket was halted. Add to that the rustiness of not playing competitive cricket, his 1/43 against Chennai Super Kings raised some concern about his rhythm.
But, as Harsha Bhogle said during commentary, you cannot keep a good man down for long.
Mumbai’s ace match-winner with the ball, especially in the absence of Lasith Malinga, found his feet in the tournament quickly and stepped up with the wickets that all but decided the outcome of the match. After the wickets of Andre Russell and Eoin Morgan in one over, Bumrah’s figures read 3-0-5-2. It was a performance as sensational as those figures suggest.
Mumbai is a side known to have specific plans to counter opposition threats and against Russell, it was evident. Full, fast and aimed at his leg stump is usually the way to go and Bumrah executed that perfectly. Against Morgan, he took the pace off from a length ball and reaped rewards.
Bumrah is an unique fast bowler and not just in terms of the action that is talked about far too often even after all these years at the top level. He is a fast bowler who smiles a lot more than he swears but that does not mean the aggression is absent. You just had to see the booming straight drive that he stopped off Russell’s bat, picked up the ball nonchalantly one-handed in the follow through, and aimed a throw at the stumps. The eyes showed what his smile doesn’t betray.
And before Bumrah’s match-defining spell, there was the match-winning knock by Rohit: a majestic 80 off 54 balls.
Rustiness is to be expected from players who have not had competitive action for half a year, and in the match against CSK, it was seen in Rohit’s batting too. Just like Bumrah later, Rohit moved nice and early to show he is getting back to his first with a six over point in the very first over.
And against the short-pitched bowling of Pat Cummins and Andre Russell, Rohit brought out his favourite front-foot pull shot to great effect. The idea to test batsmen with short balls with large square boundaries is a sound one on most occasions but perhaps not so when the batsmen is Rohit.
“I back myself to play that shot, I’m confident playing that shot, I love playing that shot and practice it quite a lot. Six months is a long time without cricket. Was looking to get going in the first game, I was quite keen to make it today,” Rohit said, as captain and player of the match.
The real difference, in the final analysis, was Rohit’s consistent ability to clear the rope: he hit six sixes in the match, while the entire KKR batting lineup managed seven (that too bolstered by Cummins’ four at the end when the match was all but over).
It may not have worked as well as expected but there is a reason why teams have been winning the toss and opting to bowl first. MI had to be close their best from the word go, because a poor start would have put them under pressure. They also needed a cushion to account for dew later in the night while setting a total.
Rohit and Surya Kumar Yadav made the point after the match that the wicket was actually good to bat on, and they expected it to get better under lights. That is where the acceleration through the innings, led by Rohit’s knock was critical. Like captain Rohit said, MI were on the money from ball one and kept the pressure on till the end.
Watch highlights of Rohit Sharma’s innings here:
Watch Bumrah’s dismissal of Russell here:
(Videos courtesy: iplt20.com)