Saurabh Somani is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo
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When a Mumbai Indians one-two punch is responsible for your defeat, the first two names to come to mind might be Kieron Pollard and Hardik Pandya. Or Rohit Sharma and Jasprit Bumrah. Or a combination of them.
Quinton de Kock and Suryakumar Yadav are the kinds who fly under the radar, even though they came into the game against Delhi Capitals having been the batting mainstays in Mumbai's two previous wins - de Kock made 67 off 39 against the Sunrisers Hyderabad, while Yadav reeled off 79* off 47 against the Rajasthan Royals.
That's the kind of star power Mumbai have. It speaks about the depth in the team, that on a day when Rohit, Hardik and Pollard managed just 16 runs off 28 balls and Bumrah went wicketless - albeit in four excellent overs - they still reeled in victory against fellow table-toppers Delhi Capitals without any jangling of nerves. That was because both de Kock and Yadav hit aggressive fifties.
Krunal Pandya led the way in bowling, where Mumbai's precision and skill of execution restricted the opposition to a total that the Capitals captain Shreyas Iyer felt was "10-15 runs below par".
But even if the Capitals had got those extra runs and had 175 to defend instead of the 162 they got, the way de Kock and Yadav were going, it didn't seem enough. When de Kock was out, at 9.5 overs, ESPNcricinfo's Forecaster had Mumbai's projected total at 177 (assuming a full 20-over innings). How well Yadav ensured momentum didn't flag in the middle overs is illustrated by the Forecaster's projection increasing to 183 when he was out, on the last ball of the 15th over.
De Kock and Yadav's partnership lasted only 4.5 overs, though they thumped 46 runs in that period. What stood out was how well their innings meshed together for Mumbai. The next partnership brought 53 runs in 5.1 overs when Ishan Kishan joined Yadav. Together, de Kock and Yadav had ensured that the ten-over period they controlled brought 99 runs for Mumbai. That allowed them to absorb a sedate start and a somewhat tepid finish, because what came in the middle was robust enough.
Both men made 53, de Kock taking 36 balls to Yadav's 32. If de Kock took the lead in the second-wicket stand with Yadav, hitting 28 off 18, it was Yadav took control in the third-wicket stand with Kishan, stroking 35 off 21.
The Capitals had the bowling attack to defend their total, even if it was not as many as they would have liked. Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje form possibly the most potent twosome of pacers in IPL 2020. R Ashwin and Axar Patel have been the spinners to bowl most impressively in tandem throughout this tournament. But by the quality of their batting, de Kock and Yadav upset the bowling pattern that has been a staple for the Capitals: Rabada bowling one over up front and Nortje two, then the duo sharing five overs at the death. By the time Yadav was out, five overs were remaining in the innings but Rabada had just one left. Iyer had been forced to go to his strike bowler earlier than he would have liked because of de Kock and Yadav.
Their approach against a quality bowling attack differed markedly from the Capitals' own plan against an equally impressive set of bowlers. Just like Mumbai, the Capitals also had two batsmen making substantial scores in Iyer (42 off 33) and Shikhar Dhawan (69* off 52). But where Iyer and Dhawan were tied down by good bowling, de Kock and Yadav looked to actively disrupt bowling plans and rhythms. Dhawan and Iyer waited for the bad ball to be put away, while de Kock and Yadav manufactured balls that could be hit by moving around in the crease, by employing a wider attacking arc, and by being unafraid to go over the in-field.
"When Surya came in, we just naturally assessed what we were dealing with out there. It did help that when he walked in he had intent, and he was off to a flier with boundaries and just rotating strike," de Kock told iplt20.com. "It kept me a lot more relaxed. We just naturally batted together. I think we dovetailed really well."
Before this game, the match-up between Ashwin and de Kock was even: 43 runs off 32 balls and twice out. In this game, de Kock began by hitting a six and a four in Ashwin's first over. When Nortje came to bowl his second over, the last in the powerplay, de Kock smacked two audacious sixes into the legside. Yadav used his wrists to whip Ashwin towards deep midwicket, and his reach to sweep Patel effectively. When Rabada was brought back for the 15th over, Yadav went 4,2,6 - hitting to third man, then over mid-off, then all the way over backward square leg.
The plan might not have been to specifically target bowlers and areas, but overall, it was clear that these two were not going to let the Capitals' quartet settle into a rhythm. It was a sound strategy because this tournament has shown that when the Capitals attack is humming nicely, the batsmen can't do too much. Having a plan is one thing, but de Kock and Yadav also had the skill, boldness and form to execute it. Their combined attack against the Capitals' best bowlers was decisive in swinging the game Mumbai's way.
"We've got really good players in our team," de Kock would say later. "If it's not one, it's the other that's going to do something for the team."
In a team of superstars, the batting chops of de Kock and Yadav may occasionally go under the radar. But as they've shown in the last three games, flying under the radar does not diminish the devastating effect they can have.