Ultimately, it took Hardik Pandya to keep the Mumbai Indians alive in IPL 2021.
Under fire for not playing, and then not bowling in the second leg of IPL-2021, ahead of the T20 World Cup, Pandya smashed an unbeaten 40 (30b, 4×4, 2×6) on Tuesday night to help MI chase down 136 in a do-or-die game against a spirited Punjab Kings at Abu Dhabi. MI’s six-wicket win in a low scoring thriller helped them climb to the fifth spot in the table, even as Punjab are at sixth.
Hardik’s return to some kind of form will be music to the Indian selectors, who’ve been anxious over the allrounder’s fitness, lack of bowling and poor display with the bat before this match. For now, the Baroda man has answered his critics in the best way possible: with the bat.
MI needed 30 off three overs, before a six and a four by Kieron Pollard (15 not out off 7 balls) off Arshdeep Singh kept them in the hunt. With 16 required off 12, Pandya tore into Mohammed Shami, carting him for two fours and a six at long on, which should have been a simple catch for Deepak Hooda. The Punjab Kings had an opportunity to get Hardik in the 14th over, but Harpreet Brar dropped a sitter at point off seamer Arshadeep Singh.
MI had slumped to 16 for two in the fourth over when leg-spinner Ravi Bishnoi dismissed skipper Rohit Sharma (caught at mid-on off a slog sleep) for 8 and the off-colour Suryakumar Yadav (bowled by a googly) for a duck.
Replacing the out-of-form India ‘keeper-batsman Ishan Kishan, who had managed just 107 runs in eight firstname.lastname@example.org, Saurabh Tiwary hit 45 (37b, 2×6, 3×4), but the match was delicately poised when he edged a widish delivery from Nathan Ellis to the ‘keeper with the score at 92. Ironically, like Kishan, Tiwary too is plays for Jharkhand in domestic cricket.
The burly Tiwary ensured that the defending champs earned their fifth win in 11 games to stay in hunt for a place in the IPL playoffs. The left-hander added 45 for the third wicket in 27 balls with Quinton de Kock (27 off 29 balls).
It’s amazing how Pollard continues to find light at the end of the tunnel for MI when everything seems dark.
In the first half of IPL 2021, the West Indian allrounder had blasted an unbeaten 87 off 34 balls to help his team pull off a thrilling four-wicket win over the Chennai Super Kings.
On Tuesday night, the beleaguered MI needed a similar kind of spark. This time, Pollard delivered with the ball, turning out to the defending champions’ ‘golden arm’. Coming on to bowl in the seventh over of the innings, the 34-year-old struck gold with his second ball itself, as Chris Gayle chose to smack him down the throat of wide long on, where Hardik Pandya gleefully accepted the catch.
Two balls later, Pollard netted Punjab Kings’ skipper KL Rahul (21), as the India opener couldn’t time a pull properly off a short ball to short fine leg. Putting out a big smile, Pollard signalled ‘300’ towards Bumrah, to tell the world that he has now taken 300 wickets in T20 cricket. It wouldn’t be a surprise if MI try to retain the ‘T20 legend’ as much as they can before the grand IPL auction before the next IPL.
Talking about his bowling, Pollard said it was under-rated and he tries to do his best whenever he gets an opportunity. “If needed, Rohit would have thrown the ball to me for another over, but sometimes you just quit whenever you are ahead. I will take these wickets each and every time.”