The showdown between Mumbai Indians and Kolkata Knight Riders was undoubtedly dominated by the bowlers on a slow pitch that didn’t do much for the batting unit. Though it looked like KKR might break out of its streak of 21 losses against MI, the last 5 overs turned the tide in the latter’s favour. In an unbelievable win, MI beat KKR by 10 runs.
The fact that Chennai’s playing ground isn’t conducive to a blazing display of power-hitting was made quite obvious in the first innings. KKR read the pitch well, opting to field first and opened their bowling attack exclusively with spinners. Quinton De Kock, reclaiming his spot as MI’s opener, had to depart for a poorly made 2 runs in a quick dismissal by Varun Chakravarthy in just the second over. Suryakumar Yadav came in next and took the cake for the most effortless performance amongst the MI batsmen, firing off a fast 56 runs off just 36 deliveries. With Yadav slogging 7 boundaries and 2 sixes, the last of which clocked in at 99 metres, MI looked on course to set a target of about 170. Prasidh Krishna’s first over was particularly punished, with MI scoring 16 runs off of it. But a clever delivery by Shakib Al Hasan dismissed the set batsmen as another high hit found the hands of Shubman Gill.
Odds began turning in KKR’s favour with Ishan Kishan being dismissed within 4 deliveries, at just 1 run. Rohit Sharma, who had been idling at the crease having faced under 25 balls, finally began to fire up. But his struggle to score in boundaries and sixes was evident, his strike rate just touching 135. Pat Cummins managed to pick up the captain’s wicket with a spry off-cutter whose inside edge found the stumps. Sharma walked back to the pavilion with a score of 43 off 32 balls at the end of 15.2 overs. By now, it was also clear as day that Yadav’s brilliant knock earlier was a class apart from his teammates.
The last 5 overs had nothing to write home about, in terms of MI’s batting. For the second match in a row, MI’s middle batting order had nothing to show for their efforts. Hardik Pandya knocked around a couple of boundaries before being caught off Krishna’s bowling. Andre Russel’s introduction to the bowling attack in the 17th over was the absolute game-changer, proving to be deadly for their opponents. He picked up the wickets of the intimidating Pollard and Jansen with his around-the-wicket angled bowling. Trusted to close off the last over, Russell picked up the consecutive wickets of Krunal Pandya and Bumrah with his off-pace short deliveries. On the final ball of the innings, he clinched his maiden five-wicket haul and career-best figures of 5-15 in just 2 overs, with Rahul Chahar’s dismissal. The mighty MI were bowled out for a mere 152 runs, collapsing from 123-5 in just over 20 deliveries.
The run-chase seemed like a breeze for KKR. Nitish Rana and Shubman Gill put up an opening stand of 72 runs, both batsmen not shying away from bringing out the big guns. Rana’s fearless batting inspired Gill to take a few more risks, resulting in a beautiful display of solid batting. Coming off the high of a sixer, Gill attempted another but succumbed to Chahar’s spin, departing for 33 off of 24. Tripathi failed to emulate the magic of his previous innings against SRH, caught behind by De Kock after only 5 runs. Chahar picked up his third wicket, clocking in at one per over of his, this time, that of the KKR captain, Eoin Morgan. He continued his streak, dismissing Al Hasan on his last ball and finishing his spell with his best figures of 4-27. Morgan and Al Hasan, both well-known for their calm and collected drive to win crucial games, walked out with single-digit scores.
Before Al Hasan’s dismissal, KKR needed 31 runs off 30 balls, a cakewalk in any imaginable situation. With Dinesh Karthik and the Knight Rider’s special trump card, Russel, at the crease, it should have been an easy win for KKR, with no bars. But what ensued was the most remarkable defeat in what was a guaranteed victory.
MI was crystal clear in their strategy- they absolutely had to put a stop to KKR’s trump card. Following in this stead, Sharma placed Pollard almost at Russel’s mouth, blocking off any on-side attacks. This forced the big man to play defensive and showing inklings of nervousness that dots the faces of newbies. Russell tried to drive the ball over Krunal Pandya’s head for a straight boundary but failed as he was almost caught by the bowler himself at 0. Pandya was rightfully livid at himself for dropping that crucial catch. But that wasn’t all. Russell gained a second life as he was dropped again on 5 by Bumrah in the same over.
Bumrah’s penultimate over was never going to be easy to score off of. Though Russell and Karthik tried to hit big and scrounged for desperately needed boundaries in the face of a mounting asking rate, they only managed singles. Bumrah’s brilliantly controlled bowling cornered KKR to an asking rate of 15 off the last over.
If the KKR fans still had hopes, they were squashed when Boult got Russell out with a slower delivery. The West Indian consuming 15 balls for just 9 runs was highly uncharacteristic and this off-day came at the worst timing possible. The pressure of having to score 13 off the remaining 3 balls had Cummins swinging hard in the hopes of a six but Boult’s searing yorker bowled him out instead. Harbajan Singh’s last-ditch attempt to push for a highly unlikely super-over was in vain, MI fans sighing a breath of relief and KKR one of disappointment.
Rana’s well made 57 off 47, supported by Gill, was simply not enough to tide KKR over. The team lacked a serious overall effort with no single batsman stepping up to the task of supporting the opening batsmen, resulting in a humiliating loss that they’ll hope to forget.