Hardik Pandya has described the sight of an offspinner coming on to deliver the 20th over of the Mumbai Indians' innings during Thursday's clash against the Kings XI Punjab as "mouthwatering". K Gowtham, the Kings XI fingerspinner, who had figures of 1 for 20 off three overs until then, ended up delivering the second-most expensive final over by a spinner in the IPL. Kieron Pollard, in particular, took a liking to his lengths and hit him for three sixes. Gowtham conceded 25 off the over, and the Mumbai Indians went into the break with the momentum.
Gowtham's final over was only the 18th instance of a spinner delivering the final over of an innings in the IPL. It was also the first time this happened since IPL 2014.
"It was intense, more mouthwatering that an offspinner was bowling the 20th over," Hardik told his older brother Krunal Pandya in a chat with IPLT20.com. "Me and Pollard were like, 'Whoever misses has to stand at the non-striker's end and watch.' That was me, I missed two balls but Pollard made the most of it."
Only a game earlier, the Mumbai Indians had nearly chased down 90 in the final five overs against the Royal Challengers Bangalore. On Friday, they plundered 104 off the last six overs, with Pollard, who only came into the bat in the 14th over, hitting an unbeaten 20-ball 47, including three fours and four sixes. After winning the Player of the Match award, Pollard had said "sky is the limit" to what Mumbai can achieve in the last five overs of any innings.
Hardik, who has played in IPL 2020 so far as a specialist batsman as a precautionary measure in the wake of a back surgery, was in an equally punishing mood, clobbering an unbeaten 11-ball 30. By the time they walked off the field, the pair had added an unbeaten 67 off just 23 balls to lift the Mumbai Indians to a score Hardik felt wasn't possible at one stage.
"The number of times Pollard and I have done this is fantastic," Hardik said of their big-hitting partnerships. "I've always enjoyed it. When we went, it was a clear message that I should go hard because I was looking to get some big runs in the end so that we could get to a total that Kings XI find difficult. We didn't aim for 192 [as the target], but we were lucky. The big man has done it again. I'm very proud of the way we both batted.
"It's down to the belief we have in the Mumbai Indians set-up where someone or the other does some wonder. I've been playing six years now for Mumbai and very often, I've seen this again and again. It's just fascinating."
Job done with the bat was just half the battle won for the Mumbai Indians. They still had the simple matter of dismantling two in-form batsmen in Mayank Agarwal and KL Rahul, the top-two run-getters of the season. Both batsmen have struck centuries already this season and seemed to have taken a liking towards the faster bowlers. Kings XI had motored to 33 without loss in three overs when Rohit Sharma introduced Krunal's left-arm spin.
Krunal had gone wicketless and didn't complete his quota against the Royal Challengers. This, he said, made him determined to do "something special." His first over went for just four, and having applied the squeeze, he went on to dismiss Karun Nair off his second as he chopped on. Then, in his last two overs, with the Kings XI looking for the release shots, Krunal speared in superb yorkers from both over and around the wicket. Hardik jokingly likened this to Wasim Akram's methods.
"When I came in after the fourth over, where they were going well and I thought, '[If] I bowl good here, we are back into the game.' I was very determined to do well," Krunal said, before revealing why he tried to spear them in later on. "These days batting skills have gone so up, the way wickets are, you have to find way to ensure batsmen don't go after you. Sometimes you have to do things here and there. At the end of the day it feels great if you execute your plans."