It is not often that a hat-trick ends in a losing cause. It is not often that a team wins a T20 after losing four wickets for less than 10 runs. Samuel Badree, on debut for Royal Challengers Bangalore, claimed the hat-trick that left Mumbai Indians reeling at 7 for 4 in chase of 143.
Enter Kieron Pollard. The raucous Chinnaswamy crowd was now chanting "Badree! Badree! Badree!" When the legspinner finished his spell by the eighth over with sterling figures of 4 for 9, Mumbai were left needing 110 from 12 overs with five wickets in hand. Pollard tactfully manipulated the middle overs and targetted Pawan Negi and Yuzvendra Chahal in the slog overs to usher Mumbai to victory.
Pollard had a forgettable start to the tournament. Entrusted with the responsibility of defending 12 off the last over against Rising Pune Supergiant, Pollard bowled a pair of length balls and watched Steven Smith swat back-to-back sixes to clinch a high-scoring match. He managed only 17 and 11 with the bat in Mumbai's next two games, and made an outburst on Twitter against a commentator for what he felt was harsh criticism about his batting.
When he walked out to bat on Friday, the situation was dire for Mumbai. It wasn't a typical, easy-paced Chinnaswamy pitch. Instead, it was sluggish and offered variable bounce. Pollard, however, sussed out the conditions and paced his innings to near-perfection. He was on 35 off 35 balls and then took only 11 balls for his next 35 runs. He carted Negi for 23 runs off eight balls, including back-to-back sixes down the ground. In all, Pollard scored 39 of his 70 runs down the ground.
"Yeah [hitting straight was the best option on this pitch], he [Pollard] got some balls in the arc and backed his strengths, which is down the ground," Badree said after the match. "He batted with maturity, and showed a lot of guts and character."
Mitchell McClenaghan, who picked up 2 for 20, also delivered a growing appraisal of Pollard's innings. "I think Kieron Pollard played one of the best knocks I've seen on an incredibly difficult wicket and it shouldn't be underestimated," he said. "I think he showed the composure of a top-order batsman to assess the wicket, the situations. To work the ones and wait for the ball in his slot. It's one of the smartest, most technically good chases I've seen on such a difficult wicket. Unbelievable!
"Look what I've seen over the last couple of games is that you have the experience of Pollard, the determination to prove few people wrong about somethings that have been said to come out and play an exceptional knock."
By the time Pollard holed out in the 18th over, he had played his second-longest IPL innings, and Mumbai needed only 17 off 15 balls. Krunal Pandya had played a crucial hand in Mumbai's recovery as well, making 37 off 30 balls and staying till the end, alongside his brother Hardik, to wrap up his team's third win of the season.
"I think we've got incredibly talented players all the way down the order," McClenaghan said. "The Pandya brothers are exceptional, both are, world-class cricketers. They have this uncanny knack of being able to absorb pressure and put it back on the bowlers. We are pretty blessed to have guys backing up KP [Pollard] lower down the order like Krunal and Hardik."