Mumbai's plans work and fail

Mumbai Indians had come out with plans against Chris Gayle and AB de Villiers, going by how they bowled to the two batsmen. The one against Gayle worked superbly as he fell for 13, the one against de Villiers failed spectacularly as he made his highest T20 score - 133.

Mitchell McClenaghan used the left-armer's angle to dig short balls into Gayle at pace and deny him width. On the other hand, Lasith Malinga provided width but off slower length balls, asking Gayle to go after them. McClenaghan's ploy almost worked, when Gayle backed away pre-empting a bouncer that turned out to be not so short. The top-edge was put down by Rohit Sharma, but immediately in the next over, Gayle attacked a Malinga wide slower one and sliced it to short third man, where Lendl Simmons took a stunner.

The approach against de Villiers was far more uniform. He was not to be given width by any bowler.

De Villiers counters Mumbai's plans

After getting Gayle with the first ball of the fourth, Malinga went on to complete a maiden, keeping de Villiers quiet with five tight deliveries around the off-stump region. De Villiers was on 3 off 9 when he revealed one of the ways he was going to tackle the lack of width.

The left-arm spinner J Suchith was bowling flat right on the line of the stumps. De Villiers made room off the back foot and punched over extra cover for four. It is not an easy shot to execute, but de Villiers would pull it off again in Suchith's next over.

The spinners tried to prevent that stroke by angling it in further and fuller. So de Villiers stepped out to clip Suchith past mid-on for four, and loft Harbhajan Singh for six over long-on.

De Villiers toys with Mumbai's best

By the time Rohit Sharma finally brought back McClenaghan and Malinga, de Villiers was in the zone. McClenaghan tried bowling short. De Villiers displayed his range: a cut behind point, a hook in front of square, and a slap over cover. All fours.

Malinga was the only Mumbai bowler to come out of the match with respectable figures - 1 for 27 - but some of de Villiers' most innovative hitting came against the fast bowler. Malinga's low trajectory, combined with accuracy and speed, make it extremely difficult to hit. Not for de Villiers, who had time to sweep Malinga for four before making room and drilling him to the extra cover rope. Similar line, same result, only on two opposite ends of the field.

Mumbai's attack exposed again

Mumbai have relied heavily on Malinga this year as always, and when he hadn't found his rhythm at the start of the season, they had struggled. Harbhajan and McClenaghan have been among the wickets, but if even one of these three has an off day, Mumbai have no reliable bowler to fall back on in the second tier of their attack. No wonder they have been the most expensive bowling side in IPL 2015 conceding nearly nine runs an over.

With the spinners Harbhajan and Suchith bowling five expensive overs during the middle stage of the innings, Rohit had to turn to Jasprit Bumrah and Hardik Pandya. The duo leaked 86 in six overs - 56 of those from de Villiers' bat. De Villiers was all but unstoppable, but even lesser batsmen would have punished all those high full tosses.

Kohli's significance

De Villiers acknowledged the role played by Virat Kohli during their partnership of 215, the biggest ever in T20s. If wickets had gone down at the other end, de Villiers would not have been able to bat with so much freedom for so long. But Kohli held that end up, rotating the strike regularly so that de Villiers' rhythm was maintained.

Kohli reached his fifty off 39 balls, Simmons off 43. Not much difference there, apart from Kohli's acceleration thereafter. Kohli got to fifty only in the 16th over. Had he fallen, a new batsman coming in could have eaten up a few deliveries at the death. But Kohli took his final 11 deliveries for 32. Not bad considering even de Villiers managed only 29.

Abhishek Purohit is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo