Rohit, Lewis batter Royal Challengers in imposing win
Mumbai Indians 213 for 6 (Rohit 94, Lewis 65, Umesh 2-36) beat Royal Challengers Bangalore 167 for 8 (Kohli 92*, Krunal 3-28, McClenaghan 2-24, Bumrah 2-28) by 46 runs. Mumbai Indians’ first win of the season came in an imposing performance that saw them post 213 after being 0 for 2, through powerful performances from Evin Lewis and Rohit Sharma, before their spinners went against the trend of the game to tie Royal Challengers up in a steep chase. Virat Kohli made an unbeaten 92, but it was a subdued effort for most part as the visitors looked to have settled for net run-rate halfway through their innings. It was another case of Royal Challengers’ middle-order crumbling under pressure after their bowlers had struggled to keep the runs down, even with the sixth bowling option of Corey Anderson who had been brought in to replace Brendon McCullum.
Apart from his return against Rajasthan Royals on Sunday, Umesh Yadav has brought his captain wickets every time he’s been given the ball. On Tuesday, he was rewarded with the brand new ball on a cloudy evening. Kohli said at the toss that the dampness and overhead conditions had prompted him to elect to bowl, an assessment that seemed perfect after the first two balls, both of which beat the inside edge, one of a right-hander and the other of a left-hander, one off the pitch another with bend through the air. But after what could have been a dramatic hat-trick to start the innings was averted, Royal Challengers could not keep the pressure on. It was a pitch that thoroughly suited Lewis’ propensity to hit on the up. Washington Sundar strayed short and wide too often in his 19-run first over, Mohammed Siraj followed a short ball with a yorker and two wide offcutters in his first over, and in both those overs, Quinton de Kock allowed wides to run past him for a bonus eight runs. Despite that first over and the sixth that went for only four, Mumbai made 60 off the Powerplay.
Mumbai’s method was effective, but peculiar. They played 20 dot balls in the Powerplay, and would play 24 between overs 7 and 15. After Lewis got to his maiden IPL fifty with a six in the ninth over, he played out two dot balls. At that point, he had made 51 with 42 coming off nine scoring-shots and 17 dot balls. Lewis wasn’t keen on risky singles after some mix-ups with Rohit and the pair missed out on quite a few runs when the fielders were at the edge of the circle. Still, the scoring rate didn’t subside, compensated in plenty by sixes off every over of spin during that phase. By the time Lewis got out to a top-edge off Anderson, the third-wicket pair had added 108 in 11 overs.
Yuzvendra Chahal hadn’t completed his quota twice in three games this season. On Tuesday night, that would turn into three in four. With Sundar going for 32 off his two, Kohli decided to go with four overs from Anderson. Rohit particularly enjoyed this as he produced yet another innings where a seemingly slow start was amplified into match-winning tempo. He took Anderson for 39 off 19 balls, his most productive return against any bowler, making use of the angle across him to strike predominantly through cover and extra-cover for the fours, and picked up big sixes over the leg side off hip-height short balls from Umesh and Siraj. For all the talk of an improved bowling line-up, Royal Challengers now have the worst economy rate in the last four overs this season, 12.49. It was that kind of profligacy that allowed Rohit, starting the final over on 80, to move within reach of a century with two balls to go. Mumbai finished with 213, with some luck at the end when Hardik Pandya’s caught-behind dismissal was controversially overturned in the 19th over, after which he smacked 17 off his next four balls.
Royal Challengers were never in it in the chase. Not when de Kock and de Villiers fell in the space of three balls to McClenaghan, not through the middle overs when a brittle middle order was exposed yet again, and not while Kohli batted through the majority of his innings – one that took him past Suresh Raina for most IPL runs – with more anger at his partners than intent. After a quick start in de Kock’s company, Kohli settled for drives down the ground, nudges for ones and twos – sometimes even off full-tosses – and shots dropped pitchside in a clear sign that net run-rate was the priority. Kohli scored 32 runs off singles in his innings of 62 balls, with a scoring rate of six an over in the middle overs. Among all individual scores between 80 and 95 in the IPL, only one has included more singles: Kohli himself, when he made 34 out of 80 that way against Rising Pune Supergiant in April 2016.
Mumbai’s spinners found plenty of grip in the surface and looked altogether more menacing than Royal Challengers’ duo. Krunal Pandya’s slow pace in particular was difficult to go hard against, and in combination with Mayank Markande he shut down the batting operation in the middle overs. They went for a combined 53 off their eight overs and picked up four wickets between them. By the time Kohli decided to go after the bowling, Royal Challengers were looking at upwards of 20 runs per over with less than half their batsmen left, and although some clean, gorgeous hits came off Kohli’s blade in that phase, the match was long gone. Perhaps the most disheartening thing for Royal Challengers was the reality that the two batsmen who were brought in to fortify the middle order – Sarfaraz Khan and Anderson – made only five runs between them off seven balls. It was yet another challenge to the claim of this being their most balanced team.