Kings XI Punjab were on top when they had four overs left in the chase and 42 runs to get. KL Rahul was in sublime form on 76 off 51, Aaron Finch was playing second fiddle on 46 off 34, there was some dew to trouble the bowlers, there were short boundaries to target for the batsmen, and Jasprit Bumrah, who had two overs left, had not been at his best this IPL.
Mumbai had been there before. Against Chennai Super Kings, they leaked 50 in the last three overs. In their next match, against Sunrisers Hyderabad, Mumbai could not defend 12 in two overs despite taking it to the last ball. And against Rajasthan Royals, they conceded another 43 runs in the last three overs.
This time, the tricks worked for Bumrah, even as he knew he would not be bowling the last over again. In his own words, his plan was: to have clear plans, back himself, and leave as many runs as possible for Mitchell McClenaghan to defend in the 20th over.
“On a good day, when you have a clear plan, you are able to execute whatever you want,” Bumrah said after the match. “So it worked for me. On some days, it doesn’t work. So I don’t look at what has happened before, what will happen in the future. My focus is always to have a clear plan, I plan and I back myself in whichever situation I’m bowling.
“Clarity is very important when you’re bowling at the death,” he said at the presentation. “Sometimes when you’re not backing yourself, there’s always doubt when you deliver. If I’m clear, most of the times it’s easier to execute. My basic plan is to have a good clarity. Even on a bad day when a batsman hits you, you have to execute your plan.
“With one or two games, in three hours I always believe a player does not become bad,” he said about the games he could not win for Mumbai this season. “I always feel that you have done it before you can do it again. So you don’t think of opinions or what is going on outside. In that game also, I was backing my plan, I was not able to execute. In this game, I was backing my plan still and I had the belief that I’ll be able to bowl a good over. You always want to bowl a good over but some days it doesn’t go your way because at the position where I bowl, it is difficult, especially at this ground with the dew going around.”
On Wednesday night, Bumrah’s plans worked to perfection. He dismissed Finch with the first ball of the 17th over and then bounced out Marcus Stoinis while conceding only four runs. In the 19th over, he took out the dangerous Rahul with a slower delivery and conceded just six runs to finish with 4-0-15-3.
“We already knew he (Rahul) had been batting well throughout the tournament,” Bumrah said. “In the bowler’s meeting, we usually talk about every player so I had a chat with Shane Bond and [Lasith] Malinga and that there’d be dew. To have a clear plan is very important whenever you bowl, so I was focusing on that today.”
McClenaghan had 16 runs to defend with Axar Patel and an out-of-form Yuvraj Singh in the middle and he bowled a mix of wide yorkers, length deliveries and bouncers to seal Mumbai’s three-run win. He later admitted he was not the death bowler he used to be.
“Bumrah is that guy you can just bank on,” McClenaghan told Star Sports after the match. “He’s that Mr. Reliable. Every time you feel like he’s got the ball in the hand and he’s not going to go for many runs. He’s a threat when he is bowling defensively. I think he’s an outstanding talent and, in this format in particular, you can bank on him to do his job and that’s the most empowering thing for a bowler at the other end. Bumrah gave me a defendable total in the last over, so again guy under pressure and that’s why he’s India’s best death bowler.
“I haven’t been the best death bowler in the last 18 months. Before that, that was my strength. Right now, my role is predominantly to try and take wickets at the top.”
Mumbai realised that a few matches ago and started opening the bowling with McClenaghan and, at times, made him bowl three of his four overs by the 10th. He would bowl quick, mostly short of length and try to pick up wickets. It worked against Kings XI too when he dismissed Chris Gayle with a short delivery in the fourth over, similar to how Umesh Yadav had removed the batsman in Kings XI’s previous match.
“Try and bowl as many balls that don’t go over the shoulder [to Gayle],” McClenaghan explained. “And try and get away with a few balls above his belly button and try and get it back into him. He’s in phenomenal form and even if you bowl waist height, he’s hitting the ball out of the park so you’ve to try and be aggressive because he’ll come hard so you’ve got to go back just as hard.”
Apart from Bumrah’s show, Mumbai were also buoyed by the return of Kieron Pollard. Batting at No. 6, Pollard unleashed a 23-ball 50, studded with five fours, three sixes, some emotional punches and celebrations.
“Pollard has always been a match-winner for us,” Rohit Sharma said. “Leaving him out was a very tough decision. As a team, we thought now is the time to get him back because – not taking anything away from JP Duminy as well – he was not getting an opportunity and we thought if he’s batting down the order, Pollard will be a better option for us, finishing off games like he has done in the past. Come a big game and he stands up for us, he wants to take that challenge and he was very disappointed when we left him out. So I was looking for that one opportunity to bring him back in the squad because he’s been a crucial member of this squad for a number of years now. It was very important for us that he comes out and bats like that.”
Back on the fourth position in the points table with 12 points, Mumbai’s target is clear just like Bumrah’s plan was when he bowled: win the last match against Delhi Daredevils and the positive net run-rate will do the rest.