Syncing in speed: How Mumbai Indians' pace attack ambushed RCB
It's fair to say that Hardik Pandya's final few blows sealed Mumbai Indians' win on Monday night. But the fact that the hosts were chasing a modest-looking score at Wankhede Stadium was down to their pace attack that had done the damage early on.
Royal Challengers Bangalore were restricted to 171 for 7 because Mumbai's fast bowlers kept them from scoring freely with their accurate lengths and pace variations. Here's how the pace attack fared on their home pitch:
The first time these two teams met this season, Jasprit Bumrah had dismissed Virat Kohli with a short ball. When Behrendorff opened the bowling on Monday and bowled to Kohli, he had a deep point and deep square-leg in place. Even before Kohli had taken strike, Behrendorff had bowled a good length with his first ball, pinning Parthiv Patel right in front but an inside edge saved him.
On the first ball of his second over, Behrendorff banged in a short-of-length delivery on middle, got it to nip in and the wide gap that Kohli leaves between his bat and pad led to an inside edge and an easy catch for the wicketkeeper. Kohli was gone for 8.
After his first two overs, Behrendorff had 2-0-14-1, but he ended with 4-0-49-1 after bowling a bit too short to Parthiv and conceding 17 in the 16th over. What Rohit Sharma may want to do in their remaining matches is finish Behrendorff's quota within the first ten overs because he is not known for his death bowling.
Coming in for the injured Alzarri Joseph, Malinga opened from the other end, and even though he bowled a touch fuller than Behrendorff, his accuracy and swing meant he conceded only five runs in the second over of the match. Malinga later returned to the attack when AB de Villiers had settled down.
He aimed for the stumps with length deliveries in the 13th over. He went for a short ball on the third delivery - whether by mistake or experiment - that went for four, and quickly responded with a yorker and more of length deliveries. Two overs for 16 runs.
The drama came in his last two overs - the 18th and 20th of the innings. He pushed Royal Challengers on the back foot with his trademark slower deliveries that dismissed a well-set Moeen Ali for 50 and the dangerous Marcus Stoinis for a duck. With de Villiers run out with four balls to go in the innings, Malinga toyed with the lower order, sending down more slower balls and taking two more wickets to end with 4 for 31 and the Player-of-the-Match award.
If Malinga snuffed out Royal Challengers with his flurry of wickets, Bumrah strangled them early on with an economical spell that hardly had any loose deliveries. As soon as he was introduced, Bumrah sent down a maiden by bowling according to his field; his lengths were accurate as ever - he knew straightaway that bowling just short of good length would reap great dividends on this ground. He swung the ball late and beat the batsmen as many as eight times in his first two overs in the Powerplay. He had even brought in two slips in the sixth over as there was a hint of swing, and he conceded just four runs in his first two overs.
When he returned at the death, Bumrah was either going for the block hole or the skiddy short-of-length area, which had worked the entire innings for Mumbai. Again, a boundary-less over and only eight off the 17th over. In the 19th over, a couple of low full tosses were dispatched through the covers by de Villiers, but Bumrah replied with a pin-point yorker through de Villiers' legs, following it up with a bouncer that hit the batsman on the side of the helmet. Bumrah finished with 4-1-22-0, and played the biggest role in tying Royal Challengers down.
Hardik has been leaking too many runs in the death overs so Rohit used him smartly by introducing him as soon as the Powerplay ended, for three overs on the trot. In those, Hardik showed how well he knows the Wankhede track. After five length deliveries in the seventh over, he slipped in a ball that was only slightly slower - at 124.4kmh - just short of good length, which got extra bounce and took Parthiv's bat shoulder for a catch to point.
He conceded only five runs off eight balls to left-handers Moeen and Parthiv combined and, in a disciplined bowling show, he was hit for only two boundaries by de Villiers - an inside edge for four and a top-edged pull for six. Despite those strokes of bad luck for him, Hardik finished with 3-0-21-1.
"We bowled pretty well with the new ball, I think we were better at that part," Hardik said at the press conference after the match. "Our bowling unit has bowlers who can swing the ball and get some purchase from the wicket, and we hit the right areas, and we were getting the movement from the wicket which was important for us."
When Mumbai's chase started, the Royal Challengers bowlers bowled either too short or too full and the difference in the Powerplay scores (45 and 67) could have been the difference in the end.
Vishal Dikshit is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo