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Comfortable win for well-oiled Mumbai

Wisden India logo Wisden India 25-04-2016

They were desperate, Kings XI Punjab, to lift themselves off the bottom of the points table in the Indian Premier League 2016, but, perhaps too much so. Mistakes on the field in the first half and calculated innings from Parthiv Patel and Ambati Rayudu allowed Mumbai Indians to set a target of 190, and although Punjab threatened, the task was beyond them.

For Punjab to make it across the line, it needed a touch of magic from one of their big guns. Shaun Marsh was the first to suggest that there was belief in the camp, playing some crisp shots to get to 45 before he picked off the fielder in the deep. If Marsh threatened something special, Glenn Maxwell seemed to be building carefully towards his own epic.

Without trying to play any cute shots or adventurous switch-hits, Maxwell helped himself to a half-century, allowing Punjab to dream. But, 69 were still needed off the final five overs, and even with wickets in hand, it was going to be a tough ask given the quality death bowlers Mumbai had at their disposal.

When Jasprit Bumrah began the 18th over, Punjab needed 51 from 18 balls and Maxwell decided to tee off. The slower ball beat the attempted tonk over cover and the stumps were rattled via a thick inside edge.

With Maxwell gone, it was all down to David Miller, but Mumbai had the game firmly in their grasp and refused to let go. Punjab, stumbling to 164 for 7, slumped to a 25-run loss, and remained at the bottom of the points table with only one win from six attempts.

Miller had a big grin on his face when he won the toss, and the right to make first bowling use of the pitch, but the joy was short-lived as his team repeatedly failed to cash in on the opportunities it created. The bowling, Sandeep Sharma aside, was undercooked, and the fielding, which could have tried to make up for this, was of a standard that left the captain standing with his hands on his hips in exasperation.

Parthiv took full toll of the fact that the opposition were not switched on at all times. The fall of Rohit Sharma, in the first over, nicking off against Sandeep, proved to be no dampener for Mumbai. Rayudu and Parthiv kept the runs coming without attempting anything too dramatic.

Rayudu was the first beneficiary of Punjab’s largesse, Axar Patel dropping a relatively straightforward offering off the bowling of Pardeep Sahu. Parthiv then pulled Mitchell Johnson, returning to the XI but a far cry from his best, straight to midwicket. The catch was taken and Parthiv was on his way, but Johnson had overstepped by a comfortable margin.

Parthiv then should have been stumped by Nikhil Naik, off Axar, but as quick as the wicketkeeper was, it was not enough as Parthiv managed to get his foot back in time. If this was not bad enough, he was reprieved once more, Mohit Sharma scuttling back from mid-off but only able to parry the ball rather than wrap his hand around it.

When you let off two experienced hands such as Rayudu and Patel four times between them, the result is always likely going to be that they find ways and means to score in the times in between.

Rayudu’s method was to stay still and target the straight boundary, and he repeatedly hit the ball back over the head of the bowlers – whether it was a fast bowler or a spinner hardly mattered – and this was a solid method given that it came attached with little risk. Parthiv’s game is built slightly differently, and he played to his strength, using the pace of the ball and different angles to deflect and time the ball for repeated boundaries behind the stumps. It helped that the bowlers hardly built any pressure, repeatedly straying onto the pads. The captaincy was not especially imaginative either, Miller following the ball and changing fields rather than being proactive.

Parthiv and Rayudu added 137 for the second wicket before finally being separated, Rayudu (65 off 37) dragged a ball from well outside off to hole out to the midwicket fielder. Jos Buttler, who has found runs hard to come by, helped himself to a brisk 24, and it was only in the penultimate over that Parthiv fell. Johnson finally got a short ball on target, and Parthiv, backing away, could not get enough on a slashing cut to beat the man at point. Parthiv’s 81 had come off only 58 balls and given the Mumbai innings backbone. Kieron Pollard, still struggling for peak fitness, could not give his team the final push they needed, scoring just 10 off 9, and this kept the score down to 189 for 6.

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