For the first time in this year’s tournament a captain opted to bat first on winning the toss; and like most things that Rohit Sharma does in charge of the multiple champions Mumbai it worked as Sunrisers fell short of a target for a third time.
Maybe Rohit’s decision was inspired by those two chases, when DavId Warner’s side had faltered by six runs against KKR and RCB. They were in the game at 129 for five with 15 balls to go, but brilliant bowling at the death by Jasprit Bumrah and, in particular, Trent Boult, and the second direct-hit run-out by Hardik Pandya, left them 13 runs adrift this time.
Although Mumbai’s 150 did not look great on paper, on the pitches of Chennai it is an entirely different matter. In a series of games so far this season it has become noticeably more difficult to bat from about the 12th over onwards as the ball loses its shine and grows rapidly softer.
It was the same again, as Mumbai made 54 without loss from their powerplay; Sunrisers 57 for none from theirs.
The champions, though, had the pure muscle of Keiron Powell to finish for them. When timing is not enough on a sticky pitch, the sheer brute force of a man mountain can be the difference: his two sixes off the last two balls of the innings from Bhuvneshwar Kumar proved crucial in the final analysis.
Rohit and Quinton De Kock gave Mumbai a strong start and the former had begun to blossom as Warner rotated his bowlers, trying to disrupt the rhythm of two great timers of the ball to give him a foothold in the game.
But the skipper, having hit two fours and two sixes, holed out off Vijay Shankar in the first over after the powerplay, another innings, like his two previously this season, cut off just as it was getting going.
Suryakumar Yadav despatched Vijay Shankar for a glorious, effortless six to wide long-off but Shankar hit back next ball, forcing him to mis-time a catch straight back to him and once De Kock perished on the long-on boundary, the innings became progressively more scratchy.
Mujeeb Ur-Rahman, who conceded 13 from his first over – the third of the innings – responded well to claim a couple of wickets with his mystery spin, including that of Ishan Kishan, who was superbly caught by Jonny Bairstow, back as wicketkeeper – and opener – instead of Wriddiman Saha, from the bottom of a glove as he tried to sweep a ball down the leg-side.
Khaleel Ahmed saw Pollard dropped at deep mid-wicket, but was rewarded with the wicket of Hardik Pandya next ball, but the West Indian, who had earlier mullered a short one from Mujeeb 105 metres over cow corner – the biggest hit of the tournament to date – did enough in the final over to ensure Mumbai were well in the game, considering Sunrisers couldn’t overcome 149 in their last outing.
The decision to restore Bairstow to the top of the innings, though, seemed a smart one – with Warner he has shared in five stands of 100 or more and they average 61 as a double act.
But it took two miserly overs from Boult and Bumrah – the Indian quickie thought he had Bairstow first ball with one that nipped back but the edge was nothing more than a trouser leg – spurred the Sunrisers into action.
Particularly the Yorkshireman. He swung Boult for two successive fours to backward square leg and when the New Zealander responded by switching to round the wicket to cramp him, he creamed him for six over long-off – destroying a drinks fridge – and then drove a full toss through the covers for another four.
Warner joined in, just clearing Pollard at mid-off as Adam Milne took over from Bumrah, before Bairstow smashed two more sixes, one a top-edged pull, the other smeared over long-on.
Thirty-five had come from two overs and the pair took the total to 67 before Bairstow, aiming a sweep off the slow left arm of Krunal Pandya, trod on his stumps. His swashbuckling 43 had come from 22 balls.
Manish Pandey fell in the next over, caught off Rahul Chahar, fresh from a four-wicket display in midweek before, with the score on 90, Warner chanced a single as Virat Singh chopped to backward point and found Hardik much too quick and accurate for him.
Chahar removed Singh and Abhishek Sharma, who hit a leg break straight to Milne on the deep square leg boundary, Bumrah came back to get rid of Vjay Shankar, who’d hit a useful 28, and then Abdul Samad was run out by Hardik, from mid-off this time.
When Boult yorked Rashid Khan, a man whose hitting should not be underestimated, first ball, the delivery sneaking under his bat to trap him lbw on the back boot, it was all over. Sunrisers had lost five wickets for eight and were condemned to a third defeat out of three. Maybe they’ll get to bat first next time.