Pollard's opportunity to justify his place
Due to its short duration, T20s often allow teams to play at least one player who is not there for consistent, blue-collar performances. Usually four batsmen, two allrounders and four bowlers do the job. This 11th player can be a batting fail-safe, a low-percentage hitter, a floating bowler or a tactical pick for a high-profile match-up, such as Bipul Sharma against AB de Villiers.
The unique thing about Mumbai Indians has been that their surplus player has been the same guy for many years. And he takes an overseas player's slot to boot. Kieron Pollard has bowled 7.5 IPL overs since May 24, 2015. It is safe to assume that he plays as a specialist batsman and a fielder. Yet he is used by Mumbai sparingly. No specialist batsman, let alone an overseas one, in this IPL has had less to do than him in this IPL. Until the Sunrisers game, at an average, there have only been 31.2 balls left in the innings when Pollard he has come out to bat this season; even Ravindra Jadeja has been coming in with more to do.
Yet, it is impact that Pollard is paid the big bucks for. When he scores a fifty, his side wins three out of four games. The rate for Chris Gayle and Virat Kohli, to put it in perspective, is 68% and 62%. Last year he came in at 7 for 4 and smacked a 47-ball 70 to win a match against Royal Challengers Bangalore. That was the kind of impact Mumbai needed from him when he came out to bat at 61 for 4 in a tricky chase. These are the nights they pay Pollard for. This time, though, he made a mental error and guided Rashid straight to slip. Will it make Mumbai question their persistence with Pollard? Not if he can win a couple of games off his own bat.
Rashid Khan, arguably the best T20 bowler, came into this match with question marks over his crown. He conceded 55 and 49 in his last two matches, mainly because left-hand batsmen - Chris Gayle of Kings XI Punjab and Suresh Raina of Chennai Super Kings - had ambushed him. Gayle played him like an offspinner, Raina slogged him mercilessly. Coming into this match, he had gone at 12.45 an over against left-hand batsmen, with no wickets, and 6.97 against right-handed batsmen, with four wickets.
The Mumbai Indians batsmen were not going to be easy to deceive. They had three left-hand batsmen: Ewin Lewis, Ishan Kishan and Krunal Pandya. While Lewis and Kishan were dismissed within the Powerplay, Rashid's introduction was possibly delayed by Krunal's presence at the crease. Rashid was finally brought on in the 10th over, the latest he has started his spell in this IPL. He bowled only five balls to Pandya; except for one full toss that slipped out of his hand because of the dew, Rashid didn't let Krunal come forward. Two of those five were googlies. The fifth trapped Krunal lbw, and then Rashid dominated two right-hand batsmen at the wicket.
When Siddarth Kaul came back to bowl, Mumbai needed a manageable 42 off 30 balls with Hardik Pandya still at the crease. Sunrisers needed wickets but they also needed to keep Hardik quiet. Kaul showed he was ready to do the heavy lifting with Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Billy Stanlake missing through injuries.
In two overs, Kaul bowled four balls to tail-enders and the rest to Hardik. Against the tail-enders he looked to hit the stumps: it brought him the lbws of Mitchell McClenaghan and Mayank Markande, and nearly a catch from Jasprit Bumrah. However, Kaul's real maturity showed in how he bowled to Hardik who had now taken it upon himself to try to finish the game. Having played out a maiden to Rashid, it was clear Hardik was going to target Kaul. But Kaul didn't use the same plan. None of the balls he bowled to Hardik would have hit the stumps. They were away from his reach and short of a length. Hardik finally holed out.