Cricket News By TODAYLIVESCORE.INFO - Maxwell and the matchups cat and mouse. Maxwell finished with figures of 2/23 on the night.
Maxwell finished with figures of 2/23 on the night.
As the Royal Challengers Bangalore applied the ceremonial finishing touches to the game, Rohit Sharma stayed put in his seat, some distance away from fidgety figures that skirted him tactfully to get ready for the handshakes. Rohit ran a hand over his head before eventually preparing to make his way down the steps. The sobering reality of the night was that, for a second season in a row at Dubai, his Mumbai Indians side had finished second-best in a tactical battle with Virat Kohli's RCB.
To put it in simple form: Mumbai Indians were irresistible for 26 overs, finding a set of rhythms that have carried them past RCB without breaking stride. They'd choked Kohli into a sedate half-century and his team into a sub-par total of 165 and then whittled out 56 out of that target in the PowerPlay. At which point Kohli and RCB found a way to lay bare Mumbai's own middle-order anxieties and their overuse of tactical intellectualism into the fine details of T20 cricket.
Part of RCB's excellent run in the first half of last season was their know-how of playing on the last pitch in Dubai which significantly skews the two distances to the square boundaries: 74 metres to one side and 62 metres to the other. A lot of the bowling here is a function of protecting the smaller side and offering the bigger as bait. Mumbai were not unaware of these dynamics. They bowled exactly to similar plans but were powerless to stop Glenn Maxwell accessing the shorter boundary, hitting three sixes and two fours with his reverse sweep.
All of that though had been rendered moot when Yuzvendra Chahal got the ball post the PowerPlay with Mumbai far ahead in the chase. The legspinner had a matchup advantage against Rohit and a history of hoodwinking Quinton de Kock thrice in the IPL. He was Kohli's only hope of a comeback and did just what he has done to big hitters before: bowl wide, just within the tram lines, making them drag their hits across. Like several others before him, de Kock took on the longer boundary and perished.
Mumbai acknowledged the Chahal threat and replaced one left-hander with another, giving Ishan Kishan a promotion above Suryakumar Yadav at No.3. In a flash interview with the commentators just before the dismissal, Daniel Christian had predicted left-arm spinner Shahbaz Ahmed for a role alongside Chahal. But the sight of Mumbai wanting to keep their left-right pairing going allowed Kohli to use his own legspin-offspin combo. Maxwell joined the cat and mouse.
His first over went for 11. He tossed one ball up and Rohit dropped it many rows behind the mid-wicket boundary. His next ball to Rohit drew a defensive reaction. It was pushed through and Rohit tapped it away for an easy single. If Rohit wanted to leverage his advantage, he had to go to the longer side with the spin. Off the last ball of the 10th over, Maxwell fired another flat delivery on the off-side and drew the Mumbai skipper into the ego game and had him mistime his shot and perish in the deep.
Rohit was only playing his matchup advantage but that Maxwell could even get a second chance against him after that six was down to the presence of the left-handed Kishan, who had managed only 3 runs off 6 Maxwell deliveries.
Maxwell was in for more work with the ball even when Kishan fell to a Chahal googly, Mumbai replaced him with another out-of-form southpaw Krunal Pandya, promoted above both his brother and Kieron Pollard. That prevented the champions from exploiting their greatest asset, their power-hitting, while at the same time doing little to protect their few weaknesses, their out-of-form Indian batsmen.
While Mumbai had turned their attention towards Chahal, Maxwell stayed on in the attack and help himself not only to Krunal's wicket but also to match-winning figures of 2 for 23 from four overs, almost half of which (11 balls) were bowled at left-handed batters.
There were details that could have changed the narrative. Suryakumar at his usual No.3 isn't necessarily a tactical misstep given his proficiency over the lofted shot over extra cover against legspin. Two right-handers may have even forced RCB's survival instinct to kick in and Kohli's hand into pulling Maxwell out of the attack and bringing back one of his less effective bowlers from the PowerPlay. Given Mumbai Indians' position already, they didn't have to play the reactive game at all and could have forced RCB, behind on the eight-ball, to show their hand first.
All of it is, of course, retrospective ifs and buts. Now, one of Mumbai Indians' much-publicised strengths is the attention to matchups, the thoroughness of their preparation, and yet that, when allied with current stutters of the middle-order, paradoxically prepared the ground for this rare failure. In itself, that shouldn't be particularly troubling for Rohit and Mumbai Indians. But to be outdone twice in the space of a year on the same ground in a similar way is also knowledge that there are some others not too far behind in this game of theirs.