Vinay, Steyn set up comprehensive win
R Vinay Kumar removed Sachin Tendulkar, Dwayne Bravo and Ambati Rayudu in one over to turn what had been a cat-and-mouse game until then, unmistakably Royal Challengers' way, also taking them to the top of the table. He benefited in part from the pressure created by his team-mates' smart swing bowling, changes of pace, bouncers to Indian batsmen, and aggressive spin bowling by Anil Kumble. It was a fitting reversal of roles for a man used to being among the top wicket-takers in Indian domestic cricket, and then watching others steal the spotlight - not the least when his state-mate Abhimanyu Mithun made his international debut ahead of him after just one season of impressive numbers.
There was no role reversal for Jacques Kallis and Manish Pandey, though, who added 50-plus for the first wicket for the third time in a row to scythe through the target without breaking a sweat. Kallis tightened the orange cap around his head, taking his tournament tally to 264 undefeated runs, but Pandey missed a fifty after a good start for the third time in a row.
The Bangalore openers will be the first ones to concede that the night belonged to their bowlers. Praveen Kumar and Dale Steyn laid the foundation by controlling the rampaging batting line-up that had scored 200-plus in both their previous matches. Praveen, with his swing either side in his first over, sent the message that scoring wouldn't be that easy against this attack, and Steyn in his first removed Sanath Jayasuriya with a quick outswinger.
Then Bangalore resorted to the nasty plan that has worked effectively for them so far: bounce the Indian batsmen out. Aditya Tare square-cut a short delivery from Jacques Kallis immediately before lobbing a sharp bouncer. Saurabh Tiwary - two fifties in two innings before this - managed to muscle a few bouncers away, but never looked in control. Anil Kumble then got him with a loopy googly in the man-versus-boy contest. Vinay followed the bouncer theme, and got Rayudu at the start of that definitive over.
While Bangalore had toyed around with other batsmen until then, at the other end Tendulkar was batting in a sphere of his own. He played the flick shot at will, and manipulated the on-side field, but in nine overs he had faced only 21 deliveries. The 22nd that he faced, he tried to flick again, moved too far across and exposed the leg stump. If this was a slightly lucky wicket for Vinay, there was no luck involved in the pin-point offcutter that removed Bravo two balls later. In 10 balls Mumbai had gone from 71 for 2 to 76 for 6, in 11 overs.
R Sathish and Kieron Pollard had to be circumspect for the next few overs, to make sure they lasted the 20 overs. After a five-over wait, Pollard opened up, hitting Praveen for a six and a four in the 17th over, taking Mumbai to 123. In the 18th, though, Steyn hurt them further. If Pollard was a touch unfortunate in hitting a full toss straight to deep point, the sharp bouncer was too good for Sathish. The running, tumbling catch that Rahul Dravid took at midwicket capped a night of near-perfect fielding.
Praveen, though, provided a blemish on a night of near-perfect bowling, giving Zaheer Khan length balls, which he hit for a six and two fours to take 16 off the last over, but 151 was still going to be hard to defend at a ground that hosted 212 v 208 last weekend.
Not with predictable bowling at any rate. Both Bangalore openers started off cautiously in the first overs from Zaheer and Lasith Malinga. Certain that there was nothing on offer that they couldn't handle, both of them attacked their second overs. It all went to an expected rhythm when Bravo and Pollard inside the Powerplay, as opposed to Harbhajan Singh. Their slower balls failed to surprise the batsmen, and their regulation pace was cannon fodder. By the end of Powerplay, Bangalore had reached 55. Pandey was 24, and Kallis, on 29, had already set his sights on another asterisk against his score.
Thereafter it was just a stroll in the park for Bangalore, made breezier by some lusty hitting from Robin Uthappa and Virat Kohli.
Sidharth Monga is a staff writer at Cricinfo