Kings Eleven Punjab and Mumbai Indians are at the two ends of a spectrum in this IPL. 20 matches were played on the round-robin basis between 10 participants in different venues of UAE until yesterday. While KXIP won all their five games, MI lost all five. Every other team recorded some wins and some losses. The next leg of the IPL resumes in Indian cities from May 2 onwards, beginning with a match in Ranchi, where CSK takes on KKR.
In the last match played at Dubai yesterday, MI won the toss and took to the field. For the first time, it seemed MI appeared to have an upper hand as the bowlers effectively restricted SRH from scoring freely. Zaheer Khan removed the dangerous Finch and skipper Dhawan and SRH were reduced to 38/ 2 in 5 overs. In addition, David Warner and Lokesh Rahul found the going difficult from 6th over onwards. Except for 1 six in the 8th over, no boundary was scored until the 13th over, when the SRH score read 89/2. The normally aggressive Warner had taken 30 balls for 27 runs. Rahul was only a shade better having made 30 off 27 in an incidental reversal of digits. But the batsmen began to cut loose at this point. Warner raced away to reach 65 off 51 balls with 4 sixes and Rahul ended his innings at 46 off 40. There were two short cameos for Sammy and Ojha, both of whom scored 10 off 4 balls each. On the slow Dubai pitch, Sunrisers’ score of 172/5 was quite competitive against an opponent, whose batting performance has remained below-par in this tournament. MI had scored 122/7 against KKR; 115/9 against RCB; 141/7 against CSK and 125/6 against DD.
When MI began chasing 173, the pace and swing from Dale Styen and Bhuvi Kumar came in their way. Rohit Sharma perished in the 2nd over after scoring just 1 run, as he shaped for a lazy drive and missed. The ball went through to clutter his off stick in a huge gap between his bat and pad. Corey Anderson played 8 balls for just 1 run and paid the price for trying to scoop a faster delivery from Styen and gloved it to Naman Ojha behind the stumps. At the end of 4 overs, Mumbai had a pathetic score of 13/2 with Ben Dunk’s belabored 5 off 9 balls. Though 11 runs were scored in the 5th over, the asking rate had mounted in the vicinity of 10. In the 6th over, Ben Dunk departed to an off-cutter from Sammy that struck his pad before hitting the stumps. Mumbai required 141 in the next 14 overs for victory but they didn’t have the batsmen to reach that target. Pollard was tentative to begin with and Rayudu could only push for singles. When the 12th over ended, Pollard had taken 23 balls for 19 runs and Rayudu 19 for 23 in another interesting reversal of digits. The asking rate had mounted to above 13, as MI required 106 from 48 balls. In the 13th over bowled by Amit Mishra Pollard broke loose and scored 17 runs and with Rayudu chipping for 2, it turned out to be the most productive over for the MI thus far but MI were still required to score at 13.4, when 15th over ended. Though Pollard had begun to mount aggression, he didn’t appear commanding. Dhawan brought Irfan Pathan in the 16th over and Rayudu succumbed to a slog over deep mid-wicket. It wasn’t a great delivery but the under pressure Rayudu went for a big heave and paid the price. Suddenly, Pollard raised hopes for MI, when he clobbered Amit Mishra for 27 runs in the 17th over. MI now required 31 in 18 balls, which was as realistic a chance as any. Aditya Tare had joined Pollard after Rayudu left and he was content in playing a supporting role to Pollard. But suddenly, he showed his inexperience against Styen in top-edging a chest high ball, which Naman Ojha held nicely. Mumbai’s think-tank should be blamed for sending Harbhajan Singh ahead of Gautam. Harbhajan might have produced good scores in past, but he is not the same batsman today. With 12 balls remaining, it was more sensible for him to pass the strike immediately to the well-set Pollard. But Harbhajan erroneously assumed himself to be in the category of big-hitters and tried an adventurous stroke against Bhuvi Kumar’s pace. He only succeeded in getting caught by Shikhar Dhawan in the covers. Gautam came after Harbhajan and began with a four. In the last over MI needed 20 for victory. But Irfan Pathan removed Pollard with his second ball and conceded just 4 runs in 6 balls. MI suffered another debacle thanks to their trademark poor batting. For a team, which relies on Harbhajan and Zaheer Khan to score runs, the remaining matches in this year’s IPL may be equally fruitless. The only solace for the beleaguered side was their highest score of 157/7 but they still lost the match by 15 runs. What they will do against table-toppers KXIP in Mumbai on May 3 remains a big question mark.