So it took Hardik Pandya putting up his best self, and some incredible self-destruction, to end Chennai Super Kings’ unbeaten run.
So much for having begun well. For 90% of Mumbai Indians’ innings, Chennai’s bowlers had them exactly where they wanted. But as is the case with so many T20 games, the last two overs told an entirely different story. Having conceded the advantage once, Chennai never regained it. Their batsmen put up a clinic in how not to approach a T20 chase and fell well short of the target.
Despite that, Chennai occupied second position, with six points. As for Mumbai, they have done the unthinkable and have as many wins as they do defeats, after four games in the competition.
Hardik Pandya. The west Indian – not the one he claims to be – has endured a rough few months. But he has put all that behind and shown up in a mood at the IPL. His death-overs batting this season has been on another level – and it’s never been better than on Wednesday, April 3.
Mumbai were desperately short of runs, at 125-5 in 18 overs. But Pandya alone pillaged 24 runs in the last two. It began with the first ball of the 19th, when Shardul Thakur was launched into the stands beyond square leg. But that was only a preview of what was to come. In the last over, Pandya laid into Dwayne Bravo, finishing the innings off with a sequence of six-four-six, the first of which was a helicopter shot, with the man who perfected it watching from behind.
It gave Mumbai 29 off the final over, and 170 overall to defend. Pandya ensured they would be successful by snaring three wickets, including that of MS Dhoni. Now that is how you make a statement.
The Dhoni dawdle. There are two things that teams chasing tough targets must guard against: losing early wickets and labouring through the overs. Chennai did neither.
They were 33-3 after five overs when their skipper arrived at the crease. He stayed there for 9.1 overs, but did more harm than good in that time. Sure, he needed to exercise caution at the outset. But when you go so deep into your consolidation that you forget to come out of it and accelerate at the right time, that’s when things get problematic.
It’s one of those things that Dhoni gets a lot of stick for. When he sees through such periods and finishes games off, he looks incredibly cool for his sense of timing and ability to think under pressure. But he couldn’t do that on Wednesday. He was dismissed in the 15th over, for a 21-ball 12. During his stay, Chennai managed just 54 off 55 balls. He left them with 84 to get off 35 balls, which just proved too much.
What they said
“Having lost two games at the start, every game is important. We don’t want the headache of winning every game at the back-end of the tournament. It becomes very tough.”
– Rohit Sharma can’t deal with these rude surprises anymore
What they didn’t say
“Do it all you want. At the end of the day, people are still going to be talking about me.”
– MS Dhoni, after watching Hardik Pandya play the helicopter
Special to hit helicopter shot with @msdhoni watching: Hardik
— IndianPremierLeague (@IPL) April 4, 2019
Delhi Capitals face Sunrisers Hyderabad. Delhi won their first game, lost their second, tied their third, and then won again in their last match. So it’s a mug’s game trying to predict their trajectory. But what we can predict is more heartwarming England-Australia love.
All images: AFP