It was a ninth consecutive loss for the Mumbai Indians in their opening game of the season. But, they came so close to break the jinx, taking the defence of 159 to the last ball. As is usually the case, the man who stood between them and a victory was AB de Villiers.
The game ebbed and flowed with Mumbai losing track in the last five overs while batting. Harshal Patel finished with a dream last over to earn himself a maiden five-for and the first-ever by a bowler against MI.
Royal Challengers Bangalore looked comfortable while Virat Kohli and Glenn Maxwell were around. But, the brilliance of Jasprit Bumrah and a two-wicket over from the debutant Marco Jansen derailed the run-chase.
Then de Villiers unleashed his inner beast, targeting every bowler to bring the target down to three off three balls. A rocket throw from Krunal Pandya ended de Villiers’ knock but a mini Gary Gilmour moment for Harshal helped RCB cross the line.
Lynn’s mixed MI debut
The RCB new-ball bowlers started well. Mohammed Siraj was on the money while Kyle Jamieson - also on debut - swung the new nut. The wicket looked slow and hitting across the line seemed difficult. Chris Lynn survived a few early calls with an outside edge not carrying to the slips and an inside edge missing his stumps.
As spinners came on, Rohit Sharma got going, clobbering Yuzvendra Chahal down the ground for a six. But, Lynn added to his tumultuous start by calling the MI skipper for a run and sending him back when he was more than halfway across the pitch.
After the Powerplay ended, Lynn got the measure of the pitch. From being on six of eleven balls, he moved to 49 off 34 in no time. It included a monstrous six down the ground to Shahbaz Ahmed and one across the line to Harshal off a free-hit. In the only over he bowled, Washington Sundar ended Lynn’s knock, one short of a fifty, with a brilliant return catch while running backwards.
MI’s worst death over phase post-2016
With most batsmen contributing, MI added 87 runs in the middle-overs. A few deliveries did turn for him but it was an off day for Chahal overall. RCB chose to not play a foreign pacer, going in with the all-round option of Dan Christian instead. The punt did not work with the ball as Christian went for 21 runs in his two overs in the phase.
The bowler earmarked for the death was Harshal Patel. He started with a 7-run 16th over that also included the wicket of Hardik Pandya via LBW. His next over – the 18th – took care of Ishan Kishan who was LBW as well.
In a record-breaking 20th over, Harshal gave away just one run while MI lost four wickets. Three of them went into the bowler's account who took them in his first four balls. Harshal mixed in-swinging yorkers with expertly executed slower balls. As Kohli said after the game, while the batsmen found the fielders in the deep, it was where Harshal wanted them to hit on a big Chennai outfield.
One run for four wickets is the best-ever return for a bowling side in the last over of an IPL innings. One has to go back to 2016 when the mighty MI last scored 31 runs or less in the last five overs.
Maxwell ends the six-hitting drought
In search of an alternative for Devdutt Padikkal, who will be game ready from the next match, RCB opened with Sundar. Though he got a life on the second ball, the experiment did not work. Another debutant, Rajat Patidar, too fell to Trent Boult’s guile.
In the whole of IPL 2020, Maxwell struggled to get momentum in his innings. Tonight, he unleashed a reverse sweep off the third ball he faced to collect a boundary. He followed it up with two gorgeous inside out strokes, one each against both MI spinners.
It was after 171 balls that Maxwell ended his search for a six in IPL. And it was a 100-meter long hit to Krunal Pandya on the first ball of the 11th over. To the first ball of the next over, it was a reverse hit to Rahul Chahar that doubled Maxwell's six count.
Bumrah and Jansen turned the game on its head
When Bumrah began his second over of the night, the 13th of the innings, RCB needed 65 runs in the last eight overs with as many wickets in the bag. In a reminder of his first IPL wicket way back in 2013, Bumrah caught Kohli plumb in front.
Bowled for a two-ball duck and having gone for 19 in two unnoticeable overs, Jansen was having a sombre debut. Then, the 15th over, which went for just three runs and included two wickets, changed the outlook of the game. Maxwell mistimed a ramp to the short fine leg fielder which ended his 28-ball knock of 39. Shahbaz departed on the last ball picking out the deep square leg.
With 11 runs in the last three overs, RCB continued their middle-over woes, scoring only 60 runs in the overs 9-15.
AB to the rescue again
With 54 needed in the last five, RCB’s hopes rested on de Villiers. He released some pressure by hitting Chahar for a four through the off-side and a mammoth six down the ground in the 16th over.
Nailing his yorkers, Bumrah delivered a five-run 17th over to leave RCB needing 34 off the last three. The over also included the wicket of Christian who could not clear backward point with a cut.
Against Boult, de Villiers has a strike rate of 270 in T20 cricket. In the 18th over, he clubbed him for a six over long-off and a four between the two fielders in the 'V' to complete a 15-run over. The equation swung RCB's way again with 19 needed in the last two.
The mad genius of ABD turned the game decisively in RCB's favour in the next over. Slicing Bumrah's yorker towards deep extra cover and guiding him over short third man, AB reduced the target to seven runs in the last over. With 3 needed in as many balls, de Villiers chose to play Jansen in the gap on the on-side to run a couple. But, Krunal was quick to the ball and released an accurate throw to get de Villiers well short of his ground.
The tail hung on to finish the job for RCB with Harshal scoring the winning run deservingly. For MI, it is a testament to their strength by making this game go down the wire after ending on a sub-par first innings score. Even after the jinx prevailed, MI looked the side that never backs down. Like Rohit said it the end, what matters is winning the tournament and not the first game.