Mumbai Indians 173 for 4 (Rohit 65, Tilak 41, Mukesh 2-30) beat Delhi Capitals 172 (Axar 54, Warner 51, Chawla 3-22, Behrendorff 3-23) by six wickets
Mumbai Indians held their nerve with the last ball of a scrappy, tension-fuelled basement battle against Delhi Capitals to claw themselves off the bottom of the IPL standings with their first win in three attempts this season, and condemn their opponents to a fourth consecutive loss in a season that is no closer to offering up any answers to their numerous issues.
With just five runs to defend against Cameron Green and the impact sub, Tim David, Nortje nailed his yorkers to perfection, and was let down only by his fielders – first by a bad drop from Mukesh Kumar at midwicket to reprieve David and then, with two runs needed from his final ball, a poor loopy shy from Warner at mid-off that allowed David to dive home for the second run and so avoid the Super Over.
In truth, it was a contest in which Mumbai had bossed the key moments – first through Chawla’s mid-innings incisions, then with the scalping of five wickets in the final ten balls of Delhi’s innings that had kept their target to a gettable 173. The early exchanges of the run-chase had fallen in the visitors’ favour too, with Rohit’s 65 from 45 including a 29-ball fifty that provided the impetus for a 68-run powerplay. But after Mumbai failed to kill the chase when the going was still good, Nortje – armed with two death overs and aiming fast, full and furious throughout – so nearly saved the day.
Chawla shows he’s still got it
At the age of 34, and more than a decade after his last appearance for India, Chawla may be a touch more weather-beaten these days, but his googly has lost none of the startling impact it first made more than half a lifetime ago in 2005 when, aged 15, he bowled Sachin Tendulkar in a Challenger Trophy fixture. Two of his three wickets today were pitch-perfect wrong’uns to Rovman Powell and Lalit Yadav respectively, to rip the heart out of a Delhi batting line-up that, Axar’s cameo aside, was never allowed to emerge from second gear.
In an unbroken spell from the seventh to the 13th overs, Chawla returned the exceptional figures of 3 for 22, with only a brace of Warner boundaries disrupting his otherwise complete hold over Capitals’ batters. After a threatening Manish Pandey skipped to the pitch but was beaten in flight to scuff a legbreak to long-off, Powell and Lalit were confounded in consecutive overs by a pair of leg-stump-seeking googlies, the former thumping the pad, the latter plucking the stump clean out.
The only real blot in Chawla’s copybook was a bad miss at mid-off as Warner, then on 37, clattered a drive clean through his grasp. He left the field soon after his spell, apparently nursing a sore finger for his efforts, although compared to the hapless Suryakumar Yadav’s spill on the boundary’s edge off Axar, it was a fairly routine miss. Poor Suryakumar, desperate for a break amid the worst run of his career, wore a full-blooded slog on the forehead as it burst through his fingers, and left the field with suspected concussion. Though he did eventually appear at No.4 in Mumbai’s chase, he soon wished he hadn’t, as a first-ball flick off the hip to fine leg completed his fourth golden duck in his last six innings.
A pair of contrasting fifties
Axar and Warner fell within three balls of one another, in the midst of a four-wicket 19th over from Jason Behrendorff that also featured ducks for Kuldeep Yadav and Abishek Porel, but there their tales converged. Axar departed with 54 from 25 balls at a strike-rate of 216; Warner with 51 from 47, at almost exactly half his team-mate’s tempo (108.51).
It was Warner’s third half-century of Capitals’ campaign, but all three have come from more than 40 balls – 43 on this occasion – and his lack of celebration was tell-tale evidence of another stodgy display.
On the one hand, at least he was there, providing some grit to the oyster that his middle-order team-mates – the debutant Yash Dhul included – could not muster. On the other hand, the carefree fluency of Axar told a different tale, of an innings in which too many scoring opportunities had been squandered.
Axar is in the midst of a startling coming-of-age as a batter of some repute and his maiden IPL fifty was a knock of high pedigree – four fours, five sixes, each of them launched down the ground including a Riley Meredith slot-ball that brought up his fifty from 22 balls. For five consecutive overs from the start of the 14th to the end of the 17th, he was Capitals’ solitary source of momentum, with Warner contributing a mere five from nine at the other end.
The Hitman cometh
Despite Warner’s struggles to push his tempo, 41% of respondents to a mid-broadcast poll said they would still prefer him over Rohit at the top of their IPL order, which perhaps says much about the criticisms the latter has endured since India’s disappointing T20 World Cup. But those doubts dissolved in the midst of an enervating powerplay onslaught, as Rohit romped towards a 29-ball fifty that offered the sort of proactive backbone that Capitals’ own innings had lacked.
Rohit set the tone for Mumbai’s chase in Mukesh’s opening over, with a clip for four off the pads followed by a violent slap for six over deep midwicket. When Nortje also strayed into his slot two overs later, he too was launched emphatically into the stands, as Mumbai’s openers cantered along at more than 11 an over in the powerplay.
At the other end, Ishan Kishan started like the clappers against the quicks as well, with three fours in his first four balls from the left-arm seam of Mustafizur Rahman. But, much as Chawla had derailed Delhi’s intentions, so Ishan was less sure-footed against the spinners – after making 28 from his first 15 balls, he managed just three runs from his next 10 before Rohit – cold-blooded at both ends of the pitch – effectively retired him out with a call for a non-existent run to point.
Mumbai fall over the line
By this stage, perhaps Capitals’ likeliest matchwinner hadn’t yet made his bow. Kuldeep’s left-arm wristspin duly made its entry in the ninth over, but with Tilak’s rubbery wrists and feet producing a brace of sixes in his only two overs, he was denied the chance to emulate Chawla’s impact. And when Tilak responded to a fallow run of 11 runs in three overs by smoking Mukesh for a four and two sixes in his first three balls, the contest seemed cooked with 34 needed from the last 27.
Mukesh, however, was not yet done. Tilak’s next shot in anger picked out Pandey at deep midwicket, and when Suryakumar’s miserable match ended one ball later, all eyes were suddenly back on Rohit. A cathartic four through midwicket eased the pressure a touch, but when Mustafizur fired in a wide yorker, Rohit could only toe-end an attempted steer through to the keeper. Suddenly Mumbai had two men yet to face, and an angsty finale to negotiate. Despite Nortje’s unstinting efforts, Green and David did just enough – the killer blows landing within the final three balls of an otherwise fine effort from Mustafizur, as each man picked off a six that left Nortje with just too little to defend.
Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket