For the second game in a row, Hardik Pandya got a meandering Mumbai Indians innings out of a ditch.
Against Royal Challengers Bangalore, an average 145 after 16 overs became a competitive (near match-winning) 187 after 20. Back at home against Chennai Super Kings, Mumbai found themselves at an even more precarious 103 for 3 at the same point (and 125 for 5 after 18).
It is an odd scenario for a T20 innings: seven wickets in the bank, just four overs to go, the run rate stuck at just a shade over a run-a-ball. Most importantly, their two biggest power-hitters, Hardik and Kieron Pollard, were stuck in the dugout. Hardik walked in with 18 balls left in the innings, and was on one from two balls when the penultimate over started. From there, he launched six after six as Mumbai added 45 off the last two overs, ending with an eight-ball 25. Pollard, for his part, raced to 17 off seven. Put together, the two made one-fourth of Mumbai's runs, having batted one-eighth of the innings.
In 37 innings since IPL 2017, Hardik has come in to bat with roughly 26 balls remaining in the innings, which is extremely low for a hitter of his ability in a T20 game. Pollard's case has been the same, for a while now.
The question, therefore, is why do Mumbai keep playing themselves into these holes? Shouldn't at least one of them get a go with a little more time in hand?
The Suryakumar slowdown
Among the major reasons for their slowdown before Hardik and Pollard got together was Suryakumar Yadav, who sprinted off the blocks in the Powerplay, making 24 off 15 balls. And then, true to reputation, he slowed down through the middle overs, strike rate dropping from 160 to 125.
Suryakumar found the boundary only twice between overs seven and 16, before finally breaking his shackles at the death. He fell going for a second straight boundary, leaving them five down at 125 at the end of the 18th over.
We might be some way away from batsmen sacrificing their wickets and retiring out to bring power-hitters to the crease, but as Suryakumar's innings wore on, the anticipation for Pollard and Hardik only increased.
Super Kings' death-overs dilemma
Super Kings have many things going for them. Death bowling might not be one of them.
On Wednesday night at Wankhede Stadium, Mohit Sharma, Shardul Thakur and Dwayne Bravo conceded 67 runs in the last four overs, the last two, bowled by Thakur and Bravo, going for 45.
But it wasn't altogether unexpected.
Bravo did defend 12 on a dewy night in Chennai on Sunday, but it shouldn't be forgotten that Rajasthan Royals had brought the equation down from 56 to 24, carting both Bravo and Thakur for biggies. Up against Pollard and Pandya, Bravo went for 35 off his last two overs, as they took him for three sixes in the final over alone. Bravo's last over was the most expensive over for a Super Kings bowler in an IPL game.
Given their spin-bowling riches that have choked the run-flow and closed out games early, it hasn't hurt Super Kings often. But in close games, against a side that bats as deep as Mumbai, it might just come down to that.
… it was also not the Super Kings' best day on the field
We used stats to make the point at the end of the first week of IPL 2019 that Super Kings were a poor ground-fielding unit even as they topped the charts when it came to grabbing their catching chances.
On Wednesday, they dropped one, and did no favours whatsoever to their ground-fielding record. Their (mis)fielders cost the team 13 runs in all, Luck Runs that did Mumbai a world of good. Suryakumar got a total of six such runs, Krunal Pandya, who had fortune smiling on him a large part of the way through his 32-ball 42, had five, and Yuvraj Singh and Pollard, when he was dropped off a free-hit, one each.