Ganga loses gamble on safety-first
For the second game in a row at the Chinnaswamy Stadium, it went down to the last ball. For the second game in a row, it was two needed off the final delivery. For the second game in a row, the fielding captain chose to keep the field spread out, and the chasing side won.
On Friday, Wayne Parnell broke Royal Challengers Bangalore's hearts with a scuffed two to long-on. In that game, the defensive field for the final ball could have been explained by the high scores in the match and the fact that Parnell, a player with international experience and one accustomed to high-pressure situations, was at the crease and had just muscled his first ball for a boundary.
On Monday, in a game where both T&T and Mumbai Indians found run-scoring exceedingly difficult, the final ball was to be faced by Yuzvendra Chahal, who at 21 has little exposure on the big stage and shown modest batting capability. Even as late as three deliveries into the last over, the No.11 Chahal wouldn't have expected to be needed in the middle, only forced to stride out after run-outs on the fourth and fifth ball of the over.
The T&T captain, Daren Ganga, had attacked with helmeted close-in fielders for significant parts of the innings, but decided to keep a deep-set field for the last delivery to be bowled by his brother, the offspinner Sherwin. On the leg side, only short fine leg was in the circle, with three men patrolling the boundary. On the off side, there were three fielders in the ring, and a sweeper and long-off deep.
Perhaps the decision to not crowd the in-field and push for a win was a result of a lack of confidence in Sherwin Ganga. The fifth bowler has proved problematic for T&T so far in the tournament, with Ganga and Lendl Simmons going at nearly 12 an over in the two matches in the qualifying phase.
The strategy nearly paid off as well, despite Ganga sending down a poor final delivery. It was a low full toss that was flailed toward midwicket. Adrian Barath had to come in from deep midwicket nearly all the way to the circle, but even as he collected the ball the batsmen had just taken off for the second. Even though Barath's throw was several yards off the mark, wicketkeeper Denesh Ramdin had the time to effect the run-out that would have prompted the super over T&T aimed for, but his underarm throw missed the stumps.
Most of the T&T fielders sank to their knees in despair, and the others barely moved, still digesting the fact that their valiant attempts to defend the seemingly indefensible total of 98 had left them with nothing to show on the points table. Only Daren Ganga shuffled around, patting his team-mates on the back and lauding their efforts.
After the match, Daren Ganga explained why he went for the tactic. "Whenever a team has got two runs to win, you first and foremost ensure that you at least get a draw," he said. "Judging from the way we were bowling and the way we were fielding, it was very difficult for us to defend one run, we tried to have another bite at the cherry, so to speak, and play the super over."
There should be little criticism of Daren Ganga for the strategy, though T&T lost a match that Harbhajan Singh said Mumbai didn't deserve to win. Given the fiendish difficulty in stopping the single even with the field brought in, the safety-first approach was probably the sensible option. It would have been fun, though, to see if Chahal would have batted for the super over if all the fielders were positioned in the circle or if he would have gone for glory by hitting over the top.
Siddarth Ravindran is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo