In the best batting conditions of the IPL, Mumbai Indians coasted to their highest successful IPL chase, razing their target of 199 with 27 balls to spare and eight wickets in hand, reclaiming their spot atop the points table. It was also the highest successful chase this season. That Kings XI gave themselves a chance was down to Hashim Amla’s sublime century, a 60-ball 104, stocked with elegance and touch.
Jos Buttler and Nitish Rana struck authoritative fifties in Mumbai’s chase after Parthiv Patel’s 18-ball 37. Buttler found form with a brutish display of power hitting, hammering seven fours and five sixes. Rana saw no need to keep the ball along the ground, striking seven sixes in his unbeaten 62, taking his top spot back at the top of this season’s run-making charts.
T20 batting, a pleasant sight again
Occasionally, T20s are stripped of some of the simple joys of cricket, such as timing or technically-equipped batsmen building an innings. Kings XI have not lacked either. Manan Vohra’s replacement, Shaun Marsh and Amla are arguably the most pleasant opening pair in this IPL. They immediately showed why.
Marsh’s delectable cuts, drives and pulls were matched by Amla’s beautiful wrists and timing. They raced to 46 before Marsh played his worst stroke – a flick he tried to muscle, instead of relying on his timing.
Wriddhiman Saha had laboured to 11 off 14 balls, struggling for fluency. Although his strike rate was lofty, Amla was set on anchoring the innings. Kings XI’s run rate was just north of six. With plenty of batting resources to come and the chance of a middle-overs collapse relatively low, Saha decided to attack. It didn’t come off – he was bowled off Krunal Pandya, but he allowed more able hitters to use a strong platform. Glenn Maxwell did, thwacking an 18-ball 40, making full use of the second half of the innings.
Malinga v Amla
Lasith Malinga is Mumbai’s slog-overs specialist. Amla is Kings XI’s most equipped batsman to handle Malinga’s variations. Both teams needed their gun overseas players to break the game open. Malinga, though, missed his length too often, his slower balls landed on a full length and skidded onto the bat. Amla wasn’t funky, he stuck to his strengths.
When Malinga was at the stumps, Amla hit straight and met the ball at different angles to hit different gaps. When the line was wayward, Amla could use the cross bat without risk. Malinga went for 58 – his most expensive IPL returns. Amla took him for 50 of those, the second most against a bowler in the IPL.
Using the best conditions
The reason M Chinnaswamy Stadium was a favourable chasing ground last season wasn’t just the small boundary dimensions, but also the nature of the surface – even pace and bounce without much turn. Batsmen can hit through the line, and mishits take the ball over the boundary. The Holkar Cricket Stadium is the closest resemblance to those characteristics this season.
Despite Kings XI putting up 198, all Mumbai needed was a strong start to keep the asking rate in check. Their openers – Buttler and Parthiv – took their chase a step further, plundering 82 in the Powerplay. There were 14 boundaries and just five dot balls, the second lowest in IPL history.