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They did it in the first match of Indian Premier League 2018 (IPL 2018) against Chennai Super Kings. And they again did it against Sunrisers Hyderabad on in their second on Thursday. Mumbai Indians, it seems, just cannot hold their nerves in desperate moments of the game. In fact, even if the opponents make more than their share of mistakes and offer Mumbai the match on a platter, the latter would likely refuse the gift of a victory.
Talking of the Mumbai Indians vs Sunrisers Hyderabad match, when a side is invited to bat first but the batting itself is flawed, there isn't much you can expect. When Mumbai captain Rohit Sharma opened the innings after being invited by SRH to bat first, he looked rusty from the very first ball of the game. The man, who has three ODI double-centuries under his belt, was only but a pale shadow of his glorious self. A sitter was dropped off the first ball, but he still failed to capitalise. Poor shot selection and the traditional problem of little feet movement cost him his wicket. Not only did he score fewer runs than expected, but he also consumed far too many deliveries in doing so. Nothing like the Rohit Sharma we know!
A captain leads by example. Well, Rohit set up a poor example, and his teammates blindly followed. Being the other opener, it was Evin Lewis' responsibility to make sure that the scoreboard kept ticking and the strike was well-rotated. Lewis played his shots, but his cameo was nothing close to what you would call a match-defining knock. He threw his wicket away while playing an unnecessary, extravagant shots. Wicketkeeper-batsman Ishan Kishan was careless in his approach too. He failed to show the character and maturity the occasion demanded. His run-a-ball score of 9 didn't much help his team's cause.
In came Suryakumar Yadav, another promising young man. He seemed like a player who wanted to stabilise the innings, and he did manage to do it for a while. But in the process, he forgot it was a T20 match. Having consumed too many deliveries and amid increasing pressure to accelerate, he gave up and fell for 28 off 31 balls. Yes, that is right. He could not even manage a strike rate of 100. Faced with Rashid Khan's turners, these players looked rather clueless. In Khan's four overs, Mumbai could manage to put up only 13 runs on the board – an economy rate of just 3.25 for the bowler. Much of the credit goes to the mindless batting of Mumbai. One is forced to wonder what they were thinking, or were they thinking anything at all?
When tall and mighty Keiron Pollard came to the crease and took charge, much was expected of his, as was from his team. And he did so some spark initially. But another failure seemed to be waiting in the wings. It’s sad that Pollard, and many others like him, rarely convert good starts into big totals. There could be many reasons for that, but the heart of the matter is that their teams suffer. Pollard tried to hit it and missed a few. The outcome: Three fours, two sixes in his 28, and then the dismissal. He could have done better. After Pollard’s departure, the tail folded up in a matter of minutes – 147-8 in 20 overs – sub-par, unexpected, unworthy total for Mumbai Indians.
SRH, with two points already in their kitty, looked more confident. Unlike the MI openers, SRH ones gave their team a flying start. Shikhar Dhawan and Wriddhiman Saha ripped the pacers apart. Pradeep Sangwan and even the seasoned national side bowler Jasprit Bumra went for plenty of runs in the powerplay. Neither had an answer to the class of Dhawan and Saha.
The match seemed going in Hyderabad's favour. But somehow, and for this SRH have themselves to blame, wickets started tumbling. From 61-0, SRH pulled themselves down to 89-4. Yes, the bowling did play a part, but there were a few soft dismissals as well. However, Deepak Hooda came in and held one end for SRH. Yusuf Pathan was with him and both rotated strike efficiently. But the drama was yet to unfold.
Again, there was a flurry of wickets. Yusuf Pathan played a careless shot and was caught, and Rashid Khan was caught behind on the very next ball – both soft dismissals. Bumra, who had been wicketless throughout the match, suddenly had two against his name. Sidhharth Kaul and Sandeep Sharma scored ducks and SRH seemed struggling with 11 to make off the last 6 balls. The onus was on Hooda, the only set batsman on the crease who might already have had his heart in his mouth. The other batsman was Billy Stanlake, the number 11. The match appeared to be in Mumbai's grasp. But the skipper chose Ben Cutting, who had been expensive in his previous three overs, to end it for the team.
With 11 to score off 6 and 9 batsmen down, odds are high that the bowler would clean it off in style and make a name for himself. But not Cutting: He comes charging in, bowls an overpitched delivery and Hooda smacks it for a six. If 11 off 6 was not a nail-biter enough, Cutting changed the equation to 5 off 5. And then he bowled a wide. An extra ball, extra run, and more baby steps towards defeat. He then bowled a dot and gave away three singles. The scores were tied. Only one was required off the last delivery but a super over looked eminent, with Stanlake on strike. And then Cutting chose to bowl a less than ordinary ball which even Stanlake could heave across the boundary. Finally, SRH won the match by one wicket on the last ball.
Among Mumbai bowlers, Mayank Markande took 4 wickets and rattled SRH's top order. Bumra took two back-to-back wickets and almost made Mumbai taste the victory. But other bowlers made sure victory remained elusive this season for the ‘mighty’ defending champions. A lot could have been done, but as they say, old habits die hard. They started the IPL losing a cliffhanger, and they continue to do so.