Kieron Pollard brought his finishing prowess to the fore to power the Mumbai Indians to a crucial victory over the Royal Challengers Bangalore in IPL 2016. With the RCB batsmen expected to light up the Chinnaswamy, it was the Mumbai Indians bowlers who did their business by restricting the home team to a below par score, before Pollard went slam-bang in style.
Put into bat first on a slower-than-usual Bengaluru wicket, RCB never really got going, after losing Chris Gayle, back in the lineup, and Virat Kohli early, eventually only managing 151/4.
MI made heavy weather of the chase, as the RCB bowlers at least made a fight of it, but just when the match was swaying a little in the home side's favour, Pollard stepped up, scoring an unbeaten 35 from 19 balls to take his team home, in the company of Jos Buttler (29 n.o., 11b, 1x4, 3x6) with eight balls to spare.
The win took MI to fourth in the table, while RCB stay sixth, needing, perhaps, a win in all of their remaining four matches, to make it to the playoffs.
Parthiv Patel fell to Sreenath Aravind in the first ball of the second over, edging one through to Shane Watson in the slips, to give RCB some early hope, but Rohit and Ambati Rayudu brought all their experience into play to ensure there would be no early collapse, even if they would have made the middle order's job a lot easier by scoring at a quicker rate.
The two right-handers hardly took any risks, putting on 58 runs together for the second wicket in 50 balls, and just when it looked like MI were in cruise control in the chase, Rohit played a poor shot to keep the match interesting.
At 60/2 in 9.3 overs, the Mumbai Indians still needed 92 runs from 63 balls, easy enough as long as they kept wickets in hand. But, giving hope to a team is a dangerous thing, and with Rohit's wicket, RCB had hope, hope of not just making a game of it, but maybe even stealing a win.
The pressure built after Rohit's wicket, as just three runs came in the next nine balls, with debutant Nitish Rana, surprisingly sent in ahead of the likes of Jos Buttler and Kieron Pollard, struggling to get things going.
However, the pressure-releasing over came in the 12th, as Rayudu and Rana, known for his big-hitting, both found maximums to take 13 runs. Yuzvendra Chahal, though, kept RCB in the game by picking up Rana, courtesy a brilliant catch in the deep by Stuart Binny.
Pollard came in and started tonking the ball off the middle from the off, and just like that the equation of 68 from 36 balls started to look simple enough, shrinking down to 55 from 30. RCB kept chipping away with the wickets, though, as Rayudu (44, 47b, 2x4, 2x6) was brilliantly caught out by AB De Villiers, leaving MI on 98/4 in 15.1 overs.
Rayudu's wicket actually proved to be a bit of a blessing in disguise for MI, because it brought their two best finishers â€“ Pollard and Buttler -- to the crease together. With Pollard, in particular, relishing the contest with Shane Watson, RCB's best bowler in IPL 2016, the MI worries soon started to fade as the equation came down all the way to 26 from 18.
Buttler then took over, smashing his England teammate Chris Jordan for two sixes in a row to virtually finish the game off.
Earlier, the RCB innings got off to a poor and, crucially, extremely slow start, and from there, there just was no coming back. With Virat Kohli walking out alongside Chris Gayle, it looked like the perfect setup for a six and four-hitting fest, but what the fans at the Chinnaswamy got was all of 25 runs from the six Powerplay overs, with Kohli and Gayle back in the dugout as well.
Kohli was the first to go, clipping one to Harbhajan Singh at wide slip off the first ball of Mitchell McClenaghan in the second over. An over later, Chris Gayle was making that slow walk back, as a mistimed shot to mid-off saw Tim Southee celebrating with Rohit Sharma, who took a smart catch.
AB De Villiers, knowing the importance of his presence at the crease for as long as possible, played cautiously, with KL Rahul, at the other end, looking good again. The problem, though, is that, that is not De Villiers' (24, 27b, 1x4, 1x6) game in T20 cricket, and when you go into that shell, so often is difficult to get out of it, with a big shot attempt so often being mistimed. That was the case this time as well, as Krunal Pandya (4-0-15-1) induced that false shot to set off the celebrations.
Rahul and Watson came together for a 38-run partnership, before the really key one of 53 from 4.3 overs â€“ thanks largely to a 23-run over off Kieron Pollard -- between Rahul (68 n.o., 53b, 3x4, 4x6) and Sachin Baby (25 n.o., 13b, 2x4, 2x6) took the Royal Challengers to a score that they could at least think of defending.