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Mumbai triumph as Bangalore batsmen falter

Wisden India logo Wisden India 11-05-2016

Whenever Royal Challengers Bangalore have taken the field at the ongoing Indian Premier League 2016, it’s been their batters shaping their fortunes, the bowling unit not quite up to par in the absence of Mitchell Starc and Samuel Badree. So it was on Wednesday (May 11) night at M Chinnaswamy Stadium against Mumbai Indians, when their batting, KL Rahul the only major exception, faltered, and they put up only 151 for 4. Chasing that down, despite a slow spell in the middle, wasn’t tough for Mumbai, who went past it with eight balls to spare for a six-wicket win.

The result took Mumbai to 12 points from 11 games and in with a good shot of making the playoffs, while, with eight from ten, it just got that much tougher for Bangalore, and Virat Kohli.

When the target is so small at a big-scoring venue, the chasing team can afford to not take undue risks. That’s what Rohit Sharma and Ambati Rayudu did once S Arvind had accounted for Parthiv Patel in the second over. Over 51 balls, they accumulated 58 runs, Rayudu the more enterprising of the two, as Rohit seemed to go into a shell. The frustration told when Rohit slogged Varun Aaron, uncharacteristically, and holed out to AB de Villiers at long-on for a 24-ball 25.

Strangely, Mumbai sent out debutant Nitish Rana after that despite Kieron Pollard, Krunal Pandya and Jos Buttler waiting padded up. Rayudu kept it simple, finding the big hits once in a way, as Rana struggled apart from the one time he sent Aaron over third man for six. The end for the debutant was always around the corner, and it came when Stuart Binny pulled off a stunner diving backwards at deep cover off the impressive Yuzvendra Chahal.

That spell, and the rising required rate, suggested that Mumbai had left a little too much for too late. And when de Villiers ran in from long-on and dived forward to send back Rayudu off Aaron after a 47-ball 44, it did look like that.

But that’s what Mumbai’s power-hitters are there for. Mixing brute force and a touch of the innovative, they charged on, chipping away at the target, the 17 runs Pollard bludgeoned off Shane Watson in the 17th over swinging the tide Mumbai’s way. And when 16 came off Chris Jordan’s next – two sixes from Buttler adding up – it was all over bar the shouting. Pollard was unbeaten on a 19-ball 35 at the end and Buttler, who sealed it with a six off Aaron, 29 not out in 11 balls.

Earlier, it didn’t start well for Kohli. He lost the toss again, and accepted it with a smile. Bat first then, not ideal; four dot balls from Tim Southee as he got the ball to shape out, followed by a rare ungainly Kohli slog that went over point for six. Pressure off. Only just, as he guided the first ball of the next over, bowled by Mitchell McClenaghan, to Harbhajan Singh at short third man. Bad. And then it got worse as the returning Chris Gayle attempted to send Southee over mid-off, but only miscued it high and down Rohit’s throat – 17 for 2 after four overs, and not looking good at all, a few great stops at cover and point from Buttler adding to their woes.

Just 37 for 2 after eight, but with de Villiers there, you knew the scoring rate would go up any moment. The change in tempo, though, came from Rahul. Demoted to fit Gayle in at the top, Rahul first swung Jasprit Bumrah for six over deep square-leg and then drove the bowler over cover for four more. It was then that de Villiers finally hit out, slogging Harbhajan over deep midwicket for six. Harbhajan could have had his revenge next ball itself, but put down a tough caught-and-bowled chance when one seemed to get stuck in the surface. No harm done – first ball of the next over, Krunal had de Villiers holing out at cow corner, 24 in 27 hardly AB-like, and certainly not what Bangalore would have hoped for.

Krunal, the only Pandya playing with Hardik out of the XI, was in the middle of a dream spell. That burst of big hits ended there and then, and Krunal gave away just two in that over and three more in his next to end with 1 for 15. With Harbhajan keeping it tight at well – the ball did appear to stop on occasion for the spinners – Bangalore were in deep strife.

But Rahul battled on, a twisted ankle as he lost his shape to Harbhajan pulling him back for a bit, while McClenaghan later caught him with a bouncer and forced him down on his backside. The second one, though, seemed to wake Rahul up, as he responded with a straight six and then a pulled four. But, still, only 91 for 3 with five overs left, which became 98 for 4 when Rohit collected a Watson drive at cover and knocked down the stumps at the bowler’s end with pinpoint accuracy.

Despite the lack of runs from the other end, Rahul didn’t lose focus, the demotion not stopping his run of good returns, as he got his fifty from 42 balls.

For a while, it looked like Bangalore would stop well below par. But, to chants of ‘Sachin, Sachin’ – with the original in the Mumbai dugout – Sachin Baby swung big to raise the pitch, especially against Pollard, whose only over went for 23, Rahul helping himself to a maximum as well. Rahul finished with 68 in 53 balls and Baby with 25 in 13. Their 53-run stand came in just 27 balls. Still, in the end, their good work was not enough.

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