Mumbai quicks trump RCB batting might
Mumbai Indians 194 for 7 (Smith 50, Karthik 43) beat Royal Challengers Bangalore 136 for 7 (Kulkarni 3-19) by 58 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
In five overs of high-quality fast bowling, easily the best cricket seen in this IPL, Mitchell Johnson and Lasith Malinga pushed Chris Gayle and Tillakaratne Dilshan into a corner with accurate, fast and hostile short-pitched bowling. The batsmen had been severely restricted; Dhawan Kulkarni and Harbhajan Singh then came on to pin them and consign Royal Challengers Bangalore, the table leaders, to a 58-run defeat.
In Royal Challengers' previous match, Gayle had scored 175 and added 167 runs with Dilshan to encourage superlatives that would have you believe it was impossible to bowl to Gayle. Nobody informed Johnson and Malinga, though. This was a similar pitch to the one in Bangalore where Gayle caused the mayhem. The outfield was similarly small, top edges flew for sixes here too, but unlike the opposition then, Johnson and Malinga had the pace, and they were prepared to bounce Gayle.
Gayle likes to bide his time, is unhurried, and plays percentage cricket, seemingly at will. He wasn't allowed to do any of that. He did play a flat pull early in the chase when Johnson bowled one into the ribs, managing to smack it to deep midwicket for six. Johnson didn't back off. He placed a deep midwicket, and went back to bouncing Gayle some more. Now he began to get the ball higher.
And Malinga, he has never been hit for a six by Gayle in the IPL. He wasn't about to today. However, Malinga's first over was dedicated to making life difficult for countryman Tillakaratne Dilshan. One swing-and-miss followed another as Malinga kept swinging the away from Dilshan. At 10 for 0 after two overs, the openers were shaken. Stirring was to begin soon.
First came the shot you will rarely ever see Gayle play: the ramp. Johnson got one to bounce disconcertingly towards the throat, and Gayle tried to clear slips with an open face. This one bounced extra, caught the glove, and the lob just about evaded the slips. Dilshan immediately took a single to send Gayle back to face the chin music. Johnson continued with two more bouncers, Gayle pulled at both, but in a different postal code. Beaten by the bounce on both occasions.
In the next over, Malinga hit him on the left shoulder, the rear shoulder. This was no slower bouncer, Malinga bowled it like he meant to. He followed it up with a superb yorker. Thankfully Mumbai didn't back off, as T20 generally encourages teams to do. Johnson got a third over. He beat Gayle with a left-armer's outswinger. Gayle was caught on the crease, expecting a bouncer. This was more Suresh Raina than Gayle. He was well and truly out of his comfort zone.
Gayle did get two fours off mis-hits in that fifth over, but still he was only 17 off 16, and Dilshan 13 off 14. This was a rude shock for Royal Challengers. On came Kulkarni, a lesser bowler of lesser pace playing his first game of the season, but the task for Royal Challengers wasn't much lesser. Bowling on a pitch he knows as well as the back of his hand, Kulkarni got bounce and away movement, Dilshan went after it, and Johnson completed a special catch at third man. You couldn't keep Johnson out of action.
In the next over, Rohit Sharma introduced Harbhajan Singh, who teased Gayle with flight and slow pace. Gayle slog-swept, got a thick edge, and it took the best of Ambati Rayudu - who had been run out earlier when a bowler inadvertently knocked his bat out of the crease - to take the catch at cow corner. It kicked off wild celebrations, and Harbhajan pulled out an improvised version of Gangnam-style.
Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers were too stunned, and followed shortish and wide deliveries and guided them to the keeper. Kulkarni had helped kill the game in the eighth over of the chase. To be fair to Gayle, though, he has been tested before, and he endures those spells even if it means he has to wait for 10 overs. Tonight, though, Mumbai had got the strategy and execution right. They didn't want to give Gayle that freedom, which usually comes with batting first. And they also put on 194 on the board, which meant the pressure of asking rate accumulated with every bouncer that beat him.
The 194 came thanks to a calculated assault by Sachin Tendulkar at the top of the game, followed by Dwayne Smith's second consecutive half-century, and the hitting by Dinesh Karthik and Kieron Pollard towards the end. Tendulkar cleared the infield well during the Powerplay overs; he tried just that as opposed to going for big sixes in his 13-ball 23. Smith then hit the big sixes. Karthik was industrious in his 43 off 33, and Pollard hit even bigger sixes when he hit 34 off 16.
Put together, they set the perfect platform for the fast bowlers, who in turn had evidently grown a leg.
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo