After a lacklustre start to the season against Chennai Super Kings, Mumbai Indians roared back in style to thump Kolkata Knight Riders by 49 runs. In doing so, they ended their UAE jinx, winning their first match in this country in seven attempts.
It was a match in which the stars aligned for the defending champions, who reduced the match to a one-sided contest much before the end. Put into bat, their captain Rohit Sharma laid the foundation, nearly batting through the innings to score a 54-ball 80. Useful contributions from the top and middle-order propelled them to a score of 195 that proved an uphill task for KKR with captain Dinesh Karthik, Eoin Morgan, and Andre Russell coming a cropper.
In the final analysis, the difference between the two teams was in their respective pace attacks. While KKR’s fast bowlers erred in line and length and looked fairly lacklustre, their MI counterparts, led by Jasprit Bumrah, were more hostile, purposeful and energetic.
Rohit pulls KKR pacers apart
Rohit can pull off the pull shot even in his sleep, or so it seems. The secret is his ability to pick the length of the delivery early. He does not have an exaggerated foot movement but prefers to stay still at the crease, relying on his excellent hand-eye coordination. This is precisely why it’s suicidal for fast bowlers to bowl short to Rohit.
So, is he a batsman without any apparent weaknesses? Not quite. The 33-year-old is at his most vulnerable at the start of his innings. If pacers can bowl tight lines and pitch it a tad fuller outside the off-stump with a hint of out-swing, Rohit can be nipped early.
This may seem like a simple, straightforward plan, but KKR pacers struggled to execute it in their IPL season-opener. They continually kept digging it short to the MI captain. On an easy-paced Abu Dhabi track, Rohit was happy to oblige. He welcomed Pat Cummins to the attack by depositing him twice into the grass banks. Rohit didn’t spare Russell either, pulling him with disdain for a six over the mid-wicket fence. The pull shot may have been Rohit’s most productive shot on the night, but he also unfurled his square-cuts to devastating effect, especially against the inexperienced Sandeep Warrier.
Frustratingly, KKR’s bowlers didn’t seem to learn from their mistakes. All this breath-taking six-hitting meant that as many as three balls were lost in the stands. Overall, Rohit enjoyed a strike-rate of over 250 against the pacers, with six sixes punctuating his knock.
If Rohit operated from a still base against pacers, he displayed nimble footwork against the spinners, especially against Kuldeep Yadav. A sublime lofted shot over long-on against the chinaman bowler brought up his 200th six in the IPL. It was not as if Rohit was doing all the scoring for Mumbai. He was ably supported by Suryakumar Yadav’s effervescence. Despite a streaky start, the MI No.3, who walked in after the early exit of Quinton de Kock brought oodles of flair. Apart from a dreamy square-drive against Warrier, Yadav scored the bulk of his runs on the leg-side because of his propensity to keep shuffling across the stumps. The duo counter-attacked with a 90-run partnership that gave MI the desired impetus. Yadav was unlucky to be run out for 47, but his captain continued the good work before he ran out of gas and spooned a Shivam Mavi full toss to Cummins. Rohit’s dismissal in the 18th over meant that Mumbai couldn’t breach the 200-run mark despite the bevy of explosive stroke-players that followed.
Bumrah swings it Mumbai’s way
Two supreme pieces of deception — a fast, searing yorker and a vicious off-cutter — bowled in the 16th over of KKR’s chase by Jasprit Bumrah effectively snuffed out their chances on Wednesday evening. The former, bowled to Russell, dislodged the leg-stump. One would have expected an overwhelming surge of emotion from Bumrah. Instead, he remained remarkably stoic. Three deliveries later, he offered a slower ball at 108kmph that dipped and took the outside edge of Morgan’s bat. The pacer finally gesticulated and for a fleeting moment, showed a bit of emotion. Given the circumstances of the match and the batsmen to whom it was delivered, it proved to be a brilliant match-altering act.
Bumrah surprisingly looked off-colour in MI’s season-opener against Chennai Super Kings. But he more than made up for that with this splendid performance tonight to finish with figures of 2/32 from four overs. Bumrah hit the deck hard and extracted sharp movement and steep bounce from the placid Abu Dhabi track. He was not the only MI pacer who impressed. Overseas pros Trent Boult and James Pattinson, who opened the attack, looked equally potent and aggressive. MI are at the most irresistible when their fast bowlers hit the straps and bowl well in tandem. On a hot and humid evening, their three-pronged pace attack put on a bowling masterclass to kick-start their campaign on an emphatic note.
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