Match Analysis

Bhuvneshwar attacks Hardik's weakness

What is Hardik's Achilles heel? Why did Rohit buck the chasing trend?

Hardik Pandya's strike rate this IPL coming into Thursday's game was 198.20. This is second among batsmen who have faced more than 100 balls in any IPL season. Considering the only entry above him is Andre Russell's IPL 2019 (SR 207.70), it presents a fair idea of how consistent he has been with his hitting.
Commentators and analysts have talked about how "clean" his hitting has been throughout the season, indicated somewhat by his control percentage of 71%, a fairly respectable figure in the 20-over game. The margins for pace bowlers have been quite minimal this season: err in your length by inches, and he smokes your full and length balls out of the park; if you don't have the pace to rattle him, you better have accurate variations to make up for it.
His Achilles heel, if you can call it that, has been the short one fired in at pace, either into his body or wide outside off to make him stretch, to force a mistimed pull every once in a while. Four of his six dismissals against pace this season have been to short balls, attempting the pull shot. And that's exactly what Bhuvneshwar Kumar did, after Hardik had raced off the blocks against Basil Thampi. After a couple of balls on length and short of length - one of them a knuckleball - he hurried Hardik with a short one, getting him to sky a pull to long-off.
In a season where it has felt like he has had no apparent weakness, it was a rare case of a plan executed to perfection to stop him early.
Why did Rohit go against the trend and opt to bat?
In what can be described as a bold move, Mumbai Indians captain Rohit Sharma opted to bat on Thursday night on a fresh Wankhede pitch. So far this IPL, only seven times out of 50 has the captain winning the toss opted to bat, and at Wankhede Stadium, it was only the second such instance in 23 matches since IPL 2017. Why did he choose to bat then?
A crucial factor that comes into play while making the toss decision is the dew and Rohit said at the toss he was "aware" of it, having been in such situations before, and he showed confidence in his bowlers. Rohit was eager to "put runs on the board" though and the most decisive factor is likely to be the new pitch that was being used.
The numbers are not against Rohit's decision. Out of all the night matches at Wankhede Stadium, the 17 times a team has opted to bowl, it has won only eight times and lost the remaining nine. The last time a team did in Mumbai what Rohit has done was in April 2016 and out of 13 instances in all when teams at Wankhede have opted to bat in night games, they have won six times. And so far this IPL, Mumbai have won five of the seven games while batting first.
Mumbai got to 162 for 5, on a rare night when neither Hardik Pandya nor Kieron Pollard could give them the late-innings impetus. Krunal Pandya said after the match that they were about 10-15 runs short, and Rohit agreed with him. "We knew we had the bowlers to put the pressure on their batters because their top two have left," the captain said. "But I thought the game changer was the eight overs from the spinners in the middle.". Krunal and Rahul Chahar conceded only 43 runs in their eight overs and made sure Mumbai's total wasn't easily chase down by Sunrisers.

Vishal Dikshit is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo