Suryakumar Yadav jumps across off stump even before Jofra Archer delivers a lifter. He is pinged on the badge of his helmet and goes down on his haunches, needing medical attention. After seemingly clearing a test from the team doctor, Yadav puts his helmet back on. Archer attempts a wide yorker the next ball, but under-pitches it. Having jumped outside leg, Yadav gets his hands low and pulls off an outrageous reverse-scoop over wicketkeeper Jos Buttler's head for six.
The likes of Buttler, AB de Villiers, Niroshan Dickwella and Yadav himself make that shot look easy, but you need a strong base, a still head, quick hands and an uncluttered mind to execute it. Though the pace of the Abu Dhabi pitch may have helped Yadav, it's still a tough shot to execute against Archer, one of the best white-ball bowlers in the world, especially after copping a blow on the head.
Yadav and Ankit Rajpoot are in a cat-and-mouse game in the next over, the final over of the Mumbai Indians' innings. Rajpoot knows that Yadav will shuffle across off and scoop him over short fine leg if he misses the yorker. The seamer misses the yorker and pushes the full-toss wider than a set of stumps outside off. Yadav is on the move while he meets the ball, but adjusts well enough to lift the ball over short fine leg.
The Rajasthan Royals had reserved two overs of Archer for the death against Kieron Pollard - and Hardik Pandya - but without Pollard batting, Yadav outscored Hardik in a 76-run stand off six overs to propel Mumbai Indians to 193. Yadav is no stranger to finishing an IPL innings - he was designated for that role when he was with the Kolkata Knight Riders - but in a Mumbai Indians line-up filled with six-hitters, Yadav is the anchor.
The role of a T20 anchor has come into sharp focus recently, with some top-order players this IPL striking at below 120 and failing to accelerate. For instance, KL Rahul, the Kings XI Punjab captain, was on 46 off 44 balls at the end of the 14th over against the Chennai Super Kings on Monday, but was dismissed for 63 off 52. The Super Kings' M Vijay and Kedar Jadhav, too, have also been a touch too conservative this IPL.
After a rapid opening stand from his captain Rohit Sharma and Quinton de Kock, Yadav was similarly conservative in the early exchanges. He had only passed 20 twice in five innings this season before Tuesday, so he took his time to suss the conditions. However, after being on 12 off 11 balls, he unfurled his wide range of strokes, ensuring Mumbai's run-rate hovered around 8.50 in the middle overs before upping the ante further at the death.
Yadav used the extra pace of debutant Kartik Tyagi to his advantage and manipulated him either side of third man for fours. Tyagi's short deliveries at the start of the ninth over weren't particularly bad ones - he had bounced out de Kock and drawn a top-edged hook from Sharma earlier - but Yadav's supple wrists and pinpoint placement made those look worse. Then, against legspinner Shreyas Gopal, he deployed a longer stride to counter the break and even though he didn't take too many risks, he still got 17 off nine balls from him. His confident footwork against spin provided a throwback to his match-winning half-century against the Super Kings in the first qualifier on a turning track in Chepauk last year.
In the slog overs, he brought out the more inventive sweeps, scoops, and ramps to throw Archer, Tom Curran, and Rajpoot off their lines and lengths. When others may have expected Pollard to close out the innings by peppering the 'V' in front of the stumps, Yadav peppered the 'V' behind it. Thirty-seven of his 79 runs came in the region between third man and fine leg. Only Rishabh Pant, during his unbeaten 128 against the Sunrisers Hyderabad in 2018, has scored more runs - 42 - in that region in an IPL innings.
At the innings break, Hardik said that he had "no words to describe" Yadav's reverse-scooped six off Archer. As for Yadav, he told host broadcaster Star Sports that he was rusty heading into this game and was relishing the responsibility of batting at No.3. "In the last few games, personally, I was just finding ways to get out," he said. "I just backed myself and tried to bat till the end. I'm loving the added responsibility given to me right now; there's not much pressure on me. They [the team management] just told me to play my game and express myself and bat as long as I can."
Yadav appeared frazzled in the slog overs, but batted till the end, making an unbeaten 79 off 47 balls - his highest IPL score. Five out of Mumbai's top-seven batsmen have rattled off 50-plus scores this season, with Yadav being the latest to the landmark. Buttler cracked 70 off 44 balls in the chase, but Yadav trumped him, and put Mumbai on top of the points table.
Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo