Battered, bruised and beleaguered, Mumbai Indians had plenty to ponder after the Sunrisers Hyderabad inflicted a mammoth 85-run defeat on them on Sunday, as Vishakhapatnam turned hostile for its new home side. Fighting for a spot in the IPL play-offs, the last thing Rohit Sharma and his hurting colleagues would have wanted is to run into a rampant Virat Kohli and his Royal Challengers Bangalore side in their own backyard.
But champions thrive on challenges and the current holders of the IPL title sensed a perfect opportunity to right the wrongs of the Sunrisers defeat and make a statement.
Teams visiting the M Chinnaswamy Stadium have came in with a mindset of hitting the 200-run mark irrespective of conditions, as that’s the kind of totals that have regularly been mounted and scaled on this ground. Bowlers walked out expecting to be hit all over the park, and then enjoy a good time in the dug-out watching their batsman do the same to the opposition bowlers. The favourable batting conditions, in addition to RCB’s batting might, usually means matches are affairs between bat and bat, with the ball having little say. Until, of course, defending champions Mumbai Indians came to town, with a ploy of not only stopping the RCB batting line-up, but also to serve them some problems to solve.
Rohit Sharma was astute with his field positions right from the onset, packing the off-side field for Virat Kohli and plugging gaps that the RCB captain finds so easily. More than the big heaves, it’s these strokes through the gaps that have served Kohli well. The first four deliveries of the RCB innings hit the sweet spot of Virat Kohli’s bat, but to no good effect, thanks to Rohit’s field placements and some great ground fielding.
Despite a six in that first over, Rohit stuck to his attacking field and was immediately rewarded in the second over when McClenaghan removed Kohli following a thick outside edge that flew straight to short third man. This was Virat Kohli’s first single-digit score in the tournament and the first in 18 T20 innings, the last one coming against Bangladesh in the World T20, This was no accident, but a culmination of a plan that pushed Virat Kohli to flirt with an out-swinging delivery.
Such has been Kohli’s impact on RCB that the home crowd went absolutely silent after his wicket, almost as if they surrendered all hopes of winning the game. Some disciplined bowling from Jasprit Bumrah then saw Chris Gayle run out of patience and head back to the pavilion in the fourth over.
Suddenly, RCB found themselves in a situation completely alien to them; this was the first time they had lost two wickets in a powerplay this season. Out came AB de Villiers and Rohit continued asking questions and attacking. On a pitch slower than the usual Bengaluru wicket, Rohit was bold enough to throw the ball at Krunal Pandya and introduce some spin against De Villiers in the powerplay.
The MI captain shuffled his pack brilliantly. By using five different bowlers in the first 10 overs, he gave no chance for the RCB batsman to get used to any particular bowler and the hosts could manage just 25 runs for the loss of two wickets in the powerplay. De Villiers’ resilience resulted in 24 runs, but constant probing from Krunal, Harbhajan Singh and Bumrah kept the pressure mounting.
Unlike previous games, there was to be no smooth sailing for RCB and the need to post a big first innings score claimed de Villiers’ wicket in the 11th over, with the score 62 for three. With three of RCB’s famed big four back in the hut, Rohit Shamra knew he had won half the battle.
Even when Shane Watson and KL Rahul took the attack back to Mumbai Indians’ bowlers, the visitors continued being aggressive on the field. A sharp piece of fielding from the captain ran Watson out, and once again the RCB revival was cut short. Every time Bangalore threatened to consolidate, Mumbai Indians managed to pick up crucial wickets.
The first innings total of 151 looked some way short of the par score, even on a slightly slow Chinnaswamy wicket, especially given how toothless the RCB bowling has looked in the past. But the chase wasn’t a smooth one and it required some crucial hitting from Kieron Pollard and Jos Buttler to finally settle the game. But the game in the true sense was won in the first 10 overs of the RCB innings and even the build-up to the game.
It is said that a burnt child dreads fire and that was totally true in the case of Mumbai Indians. Completely taken aback by conditions at Vishakhapatnam on Sunday, they read the Bengaluru pitch perfectly and based their attacking strategy on it. RCB, however, failed to do so and were caught out by Mumbai’s uber-aggression at the start of their innings.
While batting continues to be a problem for Mumbai, it was their character that shone on Wednesday and truly set them apart. They could have been pardoned if they had taken a safety-first approach after the hiding they received on Sunday, but they were having nothing of it. They came, they saw and they conquered.
While other visitors to the Chinnaswamy have gone about their business more in hope that the RCB batting won’t click, Mumbai Indians plotted their downfall and executed it.