The MI vs RCB tournament opener served up both a new record and extended an old one. The first being Harshal Patel’s remarkable five-wicket haul, the first-ever fiver against the defending champions, Mumbai Indians (MI). The latter was MI’s continued stroke of misfortune as they failed to win their first IPL match for the 9th time in a row since 2012.
MI fronted a new opening pair of openers in Quinton De Kock’s absence- Rohit Sharma and Chris Lynn. Though Sharma lost his wicket early in an ill-timed run-out, his partner Lynn pulled through, playing a knock of 49 off 35 balls. Suryakumar Yadav and Ishan Kishan contributed a commendable 59 runs among them. But the real shocker was the collapse of Mumbai’s highly applauded middle order, consisting of some of the most formidable batsmen in the likes of Hardik Pandya, Krunal Pandya and Kieron Pollard.
The collapse came in the last five overs of the innings, at the hand of Harshal Patel. Kishan’s dismissal by Patel’s yorker was originally called ‘not out’, but AB De Villiers and Virat Kohli’s quick review reversed the decision. While Hardik Pandya and Kishan fell prey to Patel’s deadly yorkers, Krunal Pandya and Pollard were deceived by the devious slower balls, their balls sailing through the sky right into the hands of waiting fielders. Patel finished off his last over with his fifth wicket of debutant Jansen.
Where MI was projected to score close to 170, if not more, the death bowling halted their attack at a mere 159, managing to take 8 wickets. Though RCB’s bowling attack shone through in the first innings, their fielding was painfully below par with some glaring misfields and multiple dropped catches.
The second innings began with a curious opening pair of Kohli and Washington Sundar, who is known as a bowler. The pressure of having to open against one of the best bowling sides was evident in Sundar as he struggled to tee off. Sundar almost lost his wicket on his very second ball, but luckily for him, he was dropped. But the luck didn’t last for long, as he was caught and had to walk off with a score of just 10 runs. RCB keenly felt the loss of young prodigy Devdutt Padikkal as their opening partnership failed to get results, and they lost two quick wickets within 8 balls.
RCB’s middle batting order has always been questionable in its strength, failing to perform consistently. And though this match didn’t prove it to the contrary, there was one exception- Glenn Maxwell. The new RCB recruit had quite an unremarkable IPL season in 2020, drawing flak for his unfruitfully expensive purchase by Kings XI Punjab. But Maxwell seemingly regained his early spark with his knock of 39 off 28 balls.
By the 15th over, it was starting to look like a losing match for RCB as they stood at just a 103, with the new batsmen barely making a dent in the total. But as the RCB fans say, with De Villiers still at the crease, never count RCB out of the game. The man stepped up to the big ask and propelled RCB on the path to victory with striking boundaries and cleverly thought-out shots. He kept his calm in the face of Bumrah and Trent to give his team a fighting chance and turned the game around.
The match went on to the very last ball in a nail-biting showdown. The high stakes resulted in a few quick dismissals at the death, but De Villiers stood tall. Though the veteran player lost his wicket to a run-out in a bid to get a couple of runs, it was undoubtedly his crucial 48 off just 27 that clinched the victory for RCB. With just 2 more runs to win, Patel took it home for his new team, RCB won by 2 wickets.
In the post-match conference, Patel reflected on his newfound confidence and perfect execution, “When we gathered for the first camp there was a very clear instruction to me that I’m going to bowl at least two overs at the death. That gave me a lot of clarity and confidence to work on my skills and develop plans against the batters I’m going to face in the death overs in various teams. It made my preparation a lot more concise.”
His captain Virat Kohli was also all praise for him, deigning him with RCB’s designated death bowler’s position. “I think his spell was the difference in containing those 20-25 runs at the end. The wickets that he got weren’t fluke wickets, he actually wanted the guys to hit where they ended up getting caught. That was the hallmark of his game because he was very clear in what he wanted to do.”
On the other hand, Rohit Sharma didn’t seem too bothered by the loss, claiming that “winning the championship is important, I guess, not the first game.” While MI will improve upon their oversights and slip-ups, RCB will hope to carry this winning momentum forward in their upcoming matches.