Star turn

It wasn't long ago that Krunal Pandya's purpose in the Mumbai Indians line-up was to be a decent domestic option. A few overs of spin, or a few boundaries as a pinch-hitter: his role seemed limited to one of those, depending on what Rohit Sharma needed on the day. That is hardly the case anymore. Krunal and indeed, Hardik Pandya, have become such vital players to Mumbai that finishing games off without them has become compulsively difficult. A case in point was when Hardik fell off the first ball of the last over in Mumbai's loss to Rising Pune on Monday. Krunal had missed that match due to illness.

Tonight, Mumbai needed 15 off the last two overs with the brothers still around. Hardik was dismissed off the first ball of the 19th over. That was Gujarat Lions' way in. They used it to pick up two wickets off consecutive deliveries and reduce Mumbai to 143 for 8 in 19 overs. Krunal, who had singlehandedly held the latter half of their innings together till that point, lofted his senior state mate Irfan Pathan straight over his head to for a six off the first ball. In hindsight, he might have kept Mumbai in the game with it, because a wicket seemed to fall every time he went off strike.

And that seemed to be his plan, to keep Mumbai in it. With two to get off two, Krunal said at the presentation, his focus was to make sure Mumbai didn't lose as long as he was there. He took a single to avoid that loss and it might have been a masterclass in chasing if Ravindra Jadeja had missed the stumps off the last ball.

Before all this, of course, Krunal had bowled 16 dot balls in his four-over spell and accounted for Dinesh Karthik, Ravindra Jadeja and Irfan Pathan. His figures read 4-0-14-3 against a team with four left-handed batsmen. Mumbai missed him while he was away.

The wow moment

Mumbai's last five batsmen made five runs off nine balls, with four of them being dismissed. In simpler terms, after Kieron Pollard's dismissal, almost every run Mumbai made came off Krunal's bat. And none were more important than the six he hit off the first ball in the last over. A wicket off the first ball had eased the pressure on Jaydev Unadkat in their last game; with a six first up this time, Krunal negated Pathan's confidence from a superb fielding display off the previous ball.

Stats that matter

  • Krunal did not bowl a single short ball. His figures tonight were his best in T20 cricket
  • Krunal scored nearly two-thirds of Mumbai's runs in the last six overs

What they said

"Hats off to Krunal to be there, and finish...not finish the game, but hang around."
Rohit Sharma was thankful to be in the game

"I feel I'm an allrounder, and I want to contribute with bat, ball and in the field. When I have the bat I think like a batsman, when I have the ball, I think like a bowler."
Krunal Pandya, revealing the simplicity of his approach

Varun Shetty is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo