The Qualifier 1 of the IPL 2017 between Mumbai Indians and Rising Pune Supergiants was a magnificent game of T20 cricket. Not magnificent in terms of “Team A made 200 and Team B chased down 200 terms” but how two very professional t20 outfits applied themselves in a match. For me, a good game of cricket needs to have a luck factor. That’s what makes it a game of uncertainties and this encounter had that too.
Mumbai Indian’s had their nose in front in the contest till the 18th the over of the match because they did everything correctly. For the next 22 overs Rising Pune Supergiants played a brand of t20 cricket that they can be very proud of. I believe in their two seasons this is their most memorable victory. Let us look at this match beyond numbers, look at it from a tactical point of view.
Mumbai were the favourites ad why not?
Just the volume of quality players in bench allows Mumbai Indians to change their playing 11 against a particular opposition. Pune’s batting line is packed with right-handers hence Mumbai left out the off-spinner Harbhajan and played the left-arm spinner Krunal and the leggie, Karn. Rohit Sharma won the crucial toss and elected to bowl. Just the perfect start for them
The game awareness of Mumbai bowlers
The very first from Mitchell McClenaghan to Ajinkiya Rahane had a hint of swing. The white ball usually swings for a couple of overs. When Rahul Tripathy came on strike, there must have been a bit of homework done by Mumbai against Tripathy who has the highest strike rate against the length ball. Keeping all the above factors in mind McClenaghan pitched it right up to him, which swung ever so slightly, Tripathy missed it and the ball cannoned into the stumps. Mumbai drew their first blood.
Once Lasith Malinga had the ball in his hands, he realized the swing wasn’t there. But he was quick to spot that the ball is stopping on this particular strip, unlike the usual belter that Wankhede is. Anyone who has seen Steve Smith throughout his purple patch would know how he turns the ball from middle and off, even sometimes from off stump towards the on-side and gets bucket loads of runs there. Knowing this Malinga bowled a heavy length instead. Smith looked to turn the back of length ball on the side, the ball stopped; took the top edge and Hardik Pandya at backward point swallowed it.
Karn Sharma just like he has done all through this IPL tossed up the deliveries. Yes, there were occasions when both Manoj Tiwary and Ajinkya Rahane used the lack of turn and went downtown hitting sixes to the leggie. But on another occasion, it was the lack of spin that made Rahane play inside the line to a well tossed up ball. He was hit in front of the off stump and was adjudged LBW.
When Jasprit Bumrah was brought back in the 14 over, he showed how quickly he picks up things from Malinga. Out of six deliveries he bowled, 5 were back of the length. One of which Manoj Tiwary almost chopped back to his stumps.
The 17th over is the one where batting sides prepare for the launch. If they get a 10-15 then they carry that momentum to the last three. Rohit Sharma brought back Mitchell Macclenghan. He went short at the body to both Tiwary and Dhoni. This wasn’t back of the length, this was out and out short stuff aimed at the body giving them no room whatsoever to free their arms. Lucky enough for the Kiwi that he got away with a wide outside the leg stump. On a slow pitch, the short of length worked. He just went for 5 singles in that over. In the 18 over Jasprit Bumrah continued bowling the heavy length. He went for just one boundary that too because of a miss-field.
The turning point
After 18 overs RPS were placed at 121 for 3. MS Dhoni batting on 14 off 17 balls at a strike rate of 82.3. But as you know that is a virtual strike rate. What happened in the next two overs has happened many times. In the recent past when that hasn’t happened, people have gotten restless. We’re talking about someone who has played 7 playoff games. The aura of MSD encompassed a champ pack Wankhede that was actually rooting for Mumbai Indians but couldn’t help to cheer their beloved superstar.
Dhoni hit 4 sixes in these last two overs. In the 19th over after Tiwary had got a six and four of McClenaghan, once Dhoni was on strike he bludgeoned one over mid-wicket and a heave over long on. In the 20th over to Jasprit Bumrah, Dhoni slapped one over covers and then launched one straight behind the bowler. 41 is what RPS got in the final two over. Dhoni finished with 40 off 26 balls at a strike rate off 153. RPS from an average looking total were now placed at a respectable 162. And Pune had all the momentum after the first innings even after a nearly perfect bowling effort from Mumbai.
The run chase which never happened
When Mumbai came out to chase 163 the odds were still in their favor. But in the very first over Lendl Simons was beaten off the first three balls of Jayadev Unadkat. Parthiv Patel at the other end realized that it is not Simon’s day and he has to be the aggressor. As it turned he hit three sixes in next three overs and got Mumbai off to a flyer.
The lucky breakthrough
In the 5th over Shardul Thakur managed some parts of his finger on a Parthiv Patel’s straight drive, the ball dislodged the stumps on the non-striker’s end and found Lendl Simmons short of his ground. Unlucky Simmons? Yes but then credit to Thakur to create that dismissal out of nowhere.
In at number 3 was Rohit Sharma. Sharma looked to sweep to a flattish delivery from Washington Sunder, he managed a thickish inside edge onto his pads but the umpire raised his fingers left the Mumbai skipper dejected.
I believe even after the advent of DRS we have accepted howlers as a part of the game. Every time an umpire gives a correct decision commentators and pundits around the globe applaud it. But when they fail and I am talking about shockers here. And mind you we have seen some unbelievably poor calls in this IPl, everybody just moves on instantly. Nobody says a word.
Maybe the umpire gave it out considering the way Rohit Sharma has played spin in this edition. No, jokes apart Wankhede is noisy and it is completely possible that he didn’t hear the inside edge.
Sundar-Smith combination won the day for Pune
Washington Sundar for me defines off-spin now and probably in times to come. At least as far as t20 cricket is concerned. Technically it is not off-spin its off-dart. Bowling with speeds of 103 kph with a “Samuel Badree” length i.e back of the length and darting into middle stump – that is the new off spin. However, it is Steve Smith’s game-changing instincts that he placed himself at short-midwicket that stood out in the entire match. Ambati Rayudu played a half pull to quick delivery from Sundar and found Smith. In a matter of minutes, Kieron Pollard who is never known for his maneuvering skills drove one straight to the throat of smith again at short mid-wicket. Mumbai Indian’s top order was demolished as they slipped to 51 for 4 and as it happened they never really recovered from that.
Parthiv Patel has played all the 10 seasons of IPL. This is only the third time has gone past 300 runs. This is only the third occasion where he has 2 fifty-plus scores in a season. And also only the third instance where he averages more than 25. These numbers are mediocre. Even then Parthiv is one of the first picks every season. This may be because he has always been a safe wicket-keeper or it may have been something to do with the fact that he has always been an out and out opener. Also may be because he has been a consistent performer in the domestic cricket. Over the last decade, Parthiv Patel continues to be that player who scores a good looking 20 or 30 off the new ball. Franchisees expect that from him and he has delivered that more often than not.
I believe that has had a huge impact on his temperament at least as far IPL is concerned. He is never someone who is going to win you games single-handedly. Not because he hasn’t got the skill. But because he has never pushed himself out of that “good looking opener” zone. He has never tried to become a sheet anchor. The argument in favor of Patel is that’s how he has always played- flashy. As Mumbai Indian were losing wickets from one end. The only set batsman was Parthiv but because he has hardly ever been in a situation where he has carried a batting line up on his shoulders he looked out of place after his first burst. I Firmly believe last night was an opportunity for him to play that one innings that could have gone into the IPL folklore. He could have battled through, got out probably in the 19th or 20th over. Mumbai still would have been 20 short who knows? but Patel could have given them an outside chance. He didn’t. Hence just like the previous nine seasons, this one might also end with hardly anything noticeable about Parthiv Patel – the batsman.
For Pune to have become the first team to reach the finals of IPL 2017 is a matter of ominous joy. But to reach the finals after defeating the tournament’s best side for the third time in the season after having been restricted to 162 is a huge morale boost.
For Mumbai as their captain rightly mentioned this was their worst batting effort in the tournament. But because they have had a tremendous IPL and finished in top two, they have earned their second shot at the finals. Mumbai will be watching the eliminator between Hyderabad and Kolkata very closely tonight. For the dejected Mumbai fans, if it feels any better, Sarabhai vs Sarabhai is back as web series and trust me it is refreshing.
Written by Babasish Nanda