Punjab took their nine-wicket loss against Hyderabad and gave it back in kind to their next opponents, Mumbai Indians. The Punjab skipper, K L Rahul, put a decisive end to the narrative that they were already playing themselves out of the tournament. With a massive victory over what’s often hailed as the best side in the IPL, PBKS shoot up to the 5th position on the points table.
After their disastrous collapse in their previous outing, the team seems to have come back with a comprehensive understanding of how to play at Chepauk. In just a single game, the turnaround is impressive to say the least. Rahul’s gamble to bowl first on a pitch that isn’t conducive to successful run-chases played out in his favour. Mumbai once again failed to post a par total, dwindling between 130-160 this entire season.
Punjab’s aggressive bowling attack reduced Mumbai to 7-1 in just the second over, De Kock bowing out for a single-digit score yet again. Punjab bowlers dominated the powerplay through and through as the MI batsmen searched for release but in vain. They finished with the lowest powerplay score of the season: a mere 21 runs—quite the opposite of MI’s usually explosive batting. Rohit Sharma’s decision to send Ishan Kishan ahead of the in-form Suryakumar Yadav cost MI another wicket. The youngster’s struggle to get going was painfully obvious in the number of dot balls he racked up. He finally perished at the hands of leggie Ravi Bishnoi, departing for just 6 runs off 17 deliveries.
Sharma seemed to sigh a breath of relief when Yadav walked out into the field. Yadav’s promise of stability allowed Sharma to let loose and take control of his sluggish strike rate. His 17 off the first 20 balls quickly turned into over 30 off the next 20. With both the batsmen stepping on the gas pedal, MI looked on course to accelerate in the death overs.
This is where Rahul’s excellent captaincy in choice of death bowling shone through. The attacking trio of Bishnoi, Mohammad Shami and Arshdeep Singh wrecked the steady 71-run second-wicket stand. Bishoi took out Yadav for 33 runs, while Shami accounted for the set captain at 63. Yadav’s wicket set the field for a domino-like collapse of the middle order to come, crumbling from 105-2 to 130-6 in the last four overs. Pollard’s lone battle, abandoned by the Pandya brothers, did little to give MI the desperate boost they needed. Shami and Bishnoi both finished with 21-2 while Arshdeep and Deepak Hooda picked a wicket apiece. While due credit to the Punjab bowlers for their cut-throat death bowling, MI’s middle order’s ineffectiveness has become a glaring weakness in every match.
Rahul wrested control from the Mumbai Indians in the run-chase from the get-go. The openers came out with guns blazing with the intent of making full use of the powerplay. And they did so with grace, boundaries and sixes coming to them effortlessly. PBKS scored 45 runs within the first six overs, going head-to-head with their required run rate. Mumbai’s most formidable bowlers in Trent and Bumrah barely phased the opening pair as they held back nothing. Mumbai found their first breakthrough in Chahar’s dismissal of Mayank Agarwal for a 20-ball-25, but it would prove to be their only one.
Say all you want about Rahul’s below-par strike rate, but his patience and timing bagged him this win. Even the big man Gayle held back from swinging his bat at every ball. The veteran’s years of playing experience brought out a different playing style this night as he played according to the pitch. That’s not to say that their partnership only consisted of singles and twos. Gayle’s 43 run stint was ripe with five boundaries and two soaring signature maximums. Rahul, too switched gears when his partner seemed warmed up enough. The last match’s cheap 4 runs played a huge part in Rahul taking the responsibility of getting his team over the line upon his shoulders. The skipper led by example, playing an elegant knock of an unbeaten 60 off 52 balls. Punjab sauntered comfortably to their target of 132 with 14 balls to spare, riding on Rahul and Gayle’s 79-run second-wicket partnership.
The Punjab Kings’ calculated disassembling of the Mumbai Indians’ middle order gives much to think about for the defending champions. The men in blue have failed to up the ante in the last five overs in every single one of their matches so far. Though MI’s world-class bowling unit has kept them in the game until the very end on more than one occasion, a ruthless breakdown of their batting troubles in the changing room is more than inevitable. On the other hand, Punjab will be riding the highs of breaking their three-match losing streak. If this playing XI sticks for the team infamous for their indecisive antics, then it’s only a matter of time before PBKS annihilate all their opponents.