RCB and MI faced off at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi with a sight on the playoffs. The winner of this contest will be the first-ever team to achieve the much talked about 16 points and will probably seal their place in the playoffs with a couple of matches to spare. The loser risks his playoff dreams by quite a margin as the team has to now win 1 out of the remaining 2 matches to be in contention for the playoffs.

Mumbai Indians won the toss and chose to field keeping up with the trend of the tournament. RCB made a few changes for tonight. I don’t know whether Saini’s omission was to manage his workload, but he would have been a critical addition to the side to rattle the MI top order with pace. Joshua Phillipe coming over to replace Finch was a positive move as well, as Finch was misfiring for way too long with the bat at the top.

RCB came out with positive intentions from the outset. Devdut Paddikal is having a dream IPL, as he is bringing back memories of Yuvraj Singh with his wiry frame and high backlift. With the ease with which he is picking up the length even for bowlers like Boult and Bumrah, it looks like a matter of time before he stakes his claim for the opener’s position of the Indian team.

With Phillippe hitting boundaries from the other end, the pressure eased on Devdut today. With frequent boundaries from both ends, RCB raced to 54 for no loss at the end of the powerplay overs. In fact, the bizarre hitting of RCB continued till the 8th over, when the vastly underrated Rahul Chahar dismissed Joshua with a floated leg spinner. The first time, we realized that there were demons in the pitch, it was post-the-dismissal of Phillippe.

Kohli was tied down by Krunal and Chahar as he found it difficult to time the ball against the lack of pace of both the spinners. After choking Kohli full throttle with the spinners for a couple of overs, Pollard brought on his premier fast bowler as a sucker move to scalp Kohli. With pace on the ball, Kohli, who was itching to get going threw his hands at a skiddy short ball from Bumrah and holed out to short mid-wicket.

While wickets kept tumbling at the other end, Devdut seemed to play the game on a  different surface altogether. While, the likes of Kohli and De Villiers found it difficult to get their mojo on a surface, that held up a bit, Paddikal was lofting bowlers over long-on, long-off, and mid-wicket for fun. The supple wrists of Paddikal ensured that his square-of-the-wicket flicks looked mesmerizing to the naked eye.

Paddikal raced his way to a 74 off 45 deliveries, but none of the other batsmen got going from the other end. In fact, I would say the turning point of the match was the wicket of Ab De Villiers in the 16th over. It was a punt that Pollard played of bowling himself at that stage of the inning. He could have gone for 30 or, he could have scalped a vital wicket. As luck would have it, he accounted for ABD and reduced RCB’s final score by at least 15-20 runs through that single wicket.

If you are not amazed by Bumrah already, just know that he bowled a double-wicket maiden in the 17th over of an IPL match against RCB. Bumrah is returning to his best, with every passing IPL match. With India’s Australia tour coming up, Kohli maybe actually happy that his premier fast bowler is looking ruthless. The series of wickets at the end meant that RCB succumbed to 164-5, a score they would not have been satisfied with especially after the gun start they got to the inning.

RCB began their bowling essay with a strange decision. Md. Siraj looked absolutely devastating with the ball against KKR in the powerplay. Very surprisingly, he was handed the ball only in the fifth over of the match after Sundar and Steyn have bowled a couple of overs each.  

Siraj produced immediate results by scalping QDK, but by then MI had already got a good start. There is a huge difference between being 7-1 and being 37-1 and RCB failed to seize that opportunity by not bowling Siraj in the first over. RCB’s lynchpin of the attack triggered a brief collapse in the MI lineup dismissing Ishan and Krunal in quick succession, but today was reserved for Surya Kumar Yadav.

Surya is an ideal example of what a captain’s trust can do to you. MI team management has spokes highly about SKY from the first match and in spite of a few average returns they kept on playing him in all the matches. Surya is paying off by playing match-winning innings in these crucial encounters for his team.

Tonight he composed a well-compiled 79 to guide his team over the line. Pollard and Pandya supported from the other end as MI became the first team to breach that hallowed mark of 16 points this IPL. RCB finds themselves in a bit of soup having to win at least 1 out of the remaining 2 games, to ensure a playoff berth.