How Pune filled a Stokes-sized hole
Rising Pune's selection dilemma
Losing Ben Stokes is akin to losing two players, because he had been bowling four overs - in the Powerplay and the 19th - and also scoring crucial runs. Rising Pune could have replaced him with either a batsman - Usman Khawaja - to make up the runs, or a bowler - Lockie Ferguson - to provide bowling cover. Because they had a settled top order, Rising Pune picked the New Zealand fast bowler Ferguson to strengthen the attack. He returned figures of 3-0-21-1.
A deft juggle of bowlers
Mumbai Indians opened the attack with Mitchell McClenaghan, who aimed almost every ball at the stumps. He had third man in the circle and both fine leg and square leg back for Rahul Tripathi and bowled the Pune opener with another full delivery. Lasith Malinga bowled the second over and removed Steven Smith. McClenaghan bowled the third over, Jasprit Bumrah the fourth, Karn Sharma the fifth, and Malinga again for the sixth over. Lots of teams use four bowlers in the Powerplay but the way Rohit Sharma did it today was better than most.
New role for Malinga
Throughout the IPL, Malinga has been a little off colour and though Mumbai opted to play him in the big playoff game, they used him differently. He bowled the second, sixth and 11th overs. In the past, it was blasphemous to even entertain the thought of not having two or more Malinga overs available in the slog. These days, Mumbai don't leave more than one Malinga over for the final five. The rise of Bumrah as an effective slog-over bowler has allowed Mumbai to use Malinga differently.
Today, Bumrah bowled only one over in the first 13. Also, Bumrah bowling the 14th over strengthened another T20 theory - rarely does a bowler bowl three overs on the trot. Rohit gave Bumrah the 14th over to make sure he could bowl the 18th and 20th. In the end, Malinga didn't even finish his quota.
It's evident that nowadays Dhoni needs a little time to get going, and that aspect was on display against Mumbai. For the first 15 balls, his strike rate was well under 100 despite a six. From there, he went on to hit four more sixes and ended with the acceptable strike rate of 154. While his dot ball percentage (46%) was higher than usual, he made up for it with some classic Dhoni-style hitting. Every time the bowlers bowled a length ball, he deposited them into the stands. Only the yorkers went unscathed.
In the Rising Pune innings, there was a leg-side wide that wasn't called. In Mumbai's chase, Rohit was done in by umpiring error - there was an edge before the ball hit his pads but the umpire gave it out. Just like the wide, this umpiring error was evident before Rohit had left the field.
While I'm not advocating for DRS in T20 and the IPL, is it not possible to rectify the blatant errors when there's no apparent wastage of time? Why can't the third umpire step in? There have been too many umpiring errors this IPL that might have changed the course of games.
A batting meltdown
There was a common theme to the recent collapses of Gujarat Lions, Kolkata Knight Riders, and Mumbai tonight. A decent start, a quick wicket or two, and not even a single batsman thinking about steadying the innings. In every team meeting before a T20 game, there's a mention of how 120 balls is a lot of time and therefore, it's imperative to read the situation properly and react appropriately. The message is getting lost of late.
Aakash Chopra is the author of three books, the latest of which is The Insider: Decoding the craft of cricket. @cricketaakash