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Krunal assault muscles Mumbai to third spot

Wisden India logo Wisden India 15-05-2016
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Every once in a while, a cricketer has a day when everything goes his way. That day was Sunday (May 15) for Krunal Pandya, and it couldn’t have come at a better time for Mumbai Indians. With victory an absolute necessity, Krunal hammered a 37-ball 82 – his first Indian Premier League half-century – to help Mumbai post 206 for 4. He followed that up with 2 for 15 in 2.1 overs, playing his part in the hapless Delhi Daredevils being bundled for 126 to go down by a massive 80-run margin. Mumbai finally had their first win at their adopted home – the ACA-VDCA Stadium – and the result ensured they jumped to third on the points table. Delhi, meanwhile, were pushed down to fifth.

Delhi went in with three spinners, bringing in Shahbaz Nadeem and Imran Tahir to complement Amit Mishra. Unfortunately, the strip – used for the first time this season – didn’t possess as many demons as its neighbours. While there was evidence of turn, batsmen found the ball coming on at hittable height and Krunal feasted on it. So much that Mishra, the best of Delhi’s spinners on the day, went for over ten an over. It was Tahir, though, who will have nightmares. His four overs yielded 59 wicketless runs – the most runs conceded by a bowler in this edition of the tournament, and the most by a spinner in IPL history.

Rohit Sharma had gotten Mumbai off to a fine start after being put in, taking on the bowlers and racing to a 21-ball 31 when Mishra put a stop to his menace. Krunal then strode out – promoted up the order – even as Delhi turned the focus on Martin Guptill, stationing a short-leg to the New Zealander. But Krunal soon ensured he was the cynosure of the evening.

Krunal has a big swing, and when it connects, there’s enough on it find the fence. He swiped away, as a teenager would on Tinder, and connected exceptionally well, sending a Mishra googly over long-on to start off with. He didn’t play anything out of the ordinary throughout the innings. He just swung through the line, but that was all that was needed, and Delhi would have little cheer thereafter.

He coaxed Guptill to lift the anchor as well, and in the 12th over sent down by Tahir, they launched a two-pronged attack that yielded 23, visibly deflating Delhi. There were three sixes, two of them slogged, and it helped that Tahir didn’t really bowl threatening lines and lengths – something which most Delhi’s bowlers were culpable of as well.

In the next over, Krunal took on Nadeem, sending yet another swipe over midwicket to bring up his half-century in style, off just 22 balls. The 98-run stand was broken in the next over when Zaheer brought himself on after nine consecutive overs of spin and prompted Guptill (48 off 42) to mistime a loft.

Unperturbed, Krunal continued pillaging, picking consecutive sixes off Mishra in the next over. He just kept going on and a century seemed a certainty when the show abruptly ended, Chris Morris inducing the inside-edge that lit up the stumps. The damage had been done by then, though. Ambati Rayudu and Jos Buttler put away a couple of boundaries to boost the total past the 200-mark, and the psychological battle was won.

Quinton de Kock put up a brave fight in the chase. He watched as the Karnataka duo of Mayank Agarwal and Karun Nair fell early, but all the while, he was in excellent touch, as he has been through this season. R Vinay Kumar was absolutely taken apart, de Kock hammering three fours and a majestic six – a pick-up over midwicket – as 19 run came off the over.

He looked to revive the innings with Sanju Samson for company, but nobody looked more devastated than de Kock when the Kerala batsman was run out. De Kock had reached a 28-ball 40 when he was deemed caught behind off Krunal – who else – and Mumbai took a big step towards securing victory.

JP Duminy and Rishabh Pant prodded around, putting on 25, but they fell in consecutive deliveries off Jasprit Bumrah in the 13th over. There was no hat-trick for Bumrah, but he went on to clean up Mishra, ending with 3 for 13. Morris valiantly attempted to rehash his heroics against Gujarat Lions, but his 16-ball 20 was never going to be enough. Not after what Krunal had done.

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