Tonight India’s two premier T20 openers got on the ground to face each other. While Rohit Sharma has been a legend of the IPL, both because of his leadership skills and his batting, KL comes into this season of IPL, with a lot of expectations pinned on him, both as a leader and a player. KXIP lost 2 very close matches, one courtesy a super over and the other courtesy the Tewatia brilliance. KL and Kumble needed to join hands in order to keep the morale high in the camp after such demoralizing losses.
KXIP won the toss and decided to put MI into bat. I don’t know why a team having the likes of Kumble, Johnty, and KL in the think tank did not take lessons from the RCB match. Virat brought the off-spinner on to unsettle Rohit at the beginning of his inning. Washington Sundar cramped Rohit for the room with his length and denied him the pace, he needs on the ball to settle down in his mojo. The Result- Rohit top-edged a pull to deep midwicket, trying to create his own pace.
Despite KXIP having a similar bowler in the line-up- in the form of Gowtham, KL Rahul inexplicably brought Bishnoi on in the powerplay instead of the off-spinner. Rohit negotiated him safely and started settling down in the wicket. Even when, Gowtham came on, in the sixth over he bowled wide lines allowing Rohit room outside the off stump, allowing him to hit boundaries at will.
Shami and Cottrell were as usual brilliant in the powerplay. Both of them hit the hard length and troubled the batsmen with their pace. De Kock was dismissed early once again and Surya, unfortunately, was runout for the second time in 4 matches. Cricket, as they say, is a great leveler. Ishan Kishan, who played a freaky genius inning last night against RCB, found it difficult to time the ball out of the square tonight. There were a few ugly hoicks, that fell in no man’s land and ultimately Jishan was dismissed off Gowtham, mistiming his slog to deep mid-wicket.
While wickets were falling at the other end, Rohit was setting himself up for demolishing the KXIP bowling the last 10 overs. Quite unfathomably, Punjab allowed Rohit to get set at the crease, making no effort to stop the flow of singles. And the after Kishan’s dismissal, the Rohit show began for MI. KL Rahul has seen a lot of Hitman shows on the field, but the difference was this time, he had the seat of the wicketkeeper rather than the non-striker.
Rohit Sharma cracked 8 boundaries and 3 sixes to dismantle the KXIP bowling attack, even before the slog overs. Ravi Bishnoi has been a major reason for KXIP’s dominance in the middle overs. Today he was taken to the cleaners, as he conceded 37 off his 4 overs. Rohit finally got dismissed courtesy an excellent catch at the boundary by the duo of Maxwell and Neesham. The way Maxwell retained balance at the boundary rope is indeed something that says a lot about his fitness and presence of mind.
KL Rahul took a good decision today to bowl out Cottrell in the powerplay & middle overs. Cottrell’s figures of 1 for 19 sow that he has been properly utilized by his captain tonight. The problem was that he chose the wrong bowler to bowl at the death. Jimmy Neesham has close to nil experience of bowling at the death in T20 cricket. To leave him in front of a well –set Pollard & Pandya is like sky diving without a parachute.
No wonder, he was taken to the cleaners by both Pollard and Pandya. Neesham kept on bowling length deliveries on a flat pitch and both Pollard and Pandya kept on making merry. In fact, KXIP bowled so badly in the last 6 overs that they ended up conceding 104! The RCB-blues of death bowling is setting in for Punjab. I have mentioned time and again in my articles that the only hope of KXIP recovering at the death is to bring back Mujeeb. Mujeeb has bowled for KXIP at the death, in previous IPL seasons as well and KXIP needs to resort to him before they find themselves out of the competition due to their death bowling woes.
KXIP began their chase in a canter. Mayank Agarwal is looking in excellent touch this IPL and he helped KXIP get off to a fast start tonight as well. However, Bumrah castled Mayank in the 5th over with an in-ducker. It is surprising how good fast bowlers can generate seam movement in the flattest of surfaces. Last night, we saw Jofra doing it. Tonight we saw Bumrah doing the same. Mayank’s 25 off 18 deliveries showed promise but fizzled out before it could cause significant damage to MI.
With Mayank gone, Rahul began playing an even more cautious brand of cricket. Karun Nair is having a nightmare in this IPL. Everything he is doing is resulting in his dismissal. He is an excellent young batsman and I hope he comes back to make this stage his own very soon. Krunal Pandya, whose bowling form, had been a concern for MI till now, came good tonight as he accounted for Karun with his arm ball.
With a chase of 192 on the cards, KXIP was simply unable to shift gears at any phase of the chase. MI bowled tight lines and KXIP were simply getting less loose balls on offer. Bumrah returned to form, much to the relief of the Mumbai cauldron. Bumrah’s success has been historically indicative of the team’s performance in their successful campaigns and his returning to form, after a forgettable mat6ch against RCB will boost the MI line-up.
However, the start of tonight was Rahul Chahar. The control with which he bowled deserves a lot of appreciation. In fact, he extracted purchase from the flat pitch on offer and made life difficult for the KXIP batsmen in the middle overs. He accounted for 2 top-order wickets tonight in the form of Lokesh Rahul and Glen Maxwell. Both of them had the capability to turn a 190+ chase on its head. Chahar was simply magnificent tonight and was easily the Man of the Match for me.
Once the partnership of Rahul & Pooran was broken, KXIP conceded the game then and there. Rahul was unlucky with his dismissal tonight as the ball just kissed the bell on its way to the wicketkeeper, as KL went too far across his stumps. After his dismissal, Pooran stuck a few lusty blows, but they were all in a lost cause. It looks like Maxwell is yet to adjust to the pace of the pitches in Dubai and if he does not achieve that soon, KXIP may be tempted to replace him in the playing 11.
When Neesham and Sarfraz came to the crease, the match had already floated away from the Punjab team. To be honest, KXIP never looked like chasing the total down, having lost both Rahul and Mayank in the first 10 overs.
MI got back to winning ways after their blip in the last match. Do they need to change their line up? I fell Hardik, Krunal and Pollard are batting a position lower than they should. They may think about picking either of Kishan, Surya, or Saurabh Tiwary and play the extra bowler in the form of Dhawal Kulkarni. As of now, MI’s 5th bowler is Kieron Pollard, who doesn’t inspire much confidence, if the batsman is on-song.