GT vs MI: Daniel has the veto to stop Titans

Synopsis: Titans squander a winning position to suffer second loss in a row as Mumbai Indians snare back-to-back victories despite Pollard’s struggles against quality bowling.

Gujarat Titans will wonder how they let this one go. Chasing what looked like an inadequate total of 177 with dew to help their cause, openers Wriddhiman Saha and Shubman Gill had put on 54 in the Powerplay enroute a 106-run stand in just over 12 overs. The result seemed to be a foregone conclusion before two run-outs by the barest of margins and a bizarre hit-wicket dismissal turned the match on its head as Titans fell five runs short.

Even then, Titans needed just nine of the final over – a requirement achieved more often than not – especially with ice-men David Miller and Rahul Tewatia at the crease. Daniel Sams has not been known for his thrift during his time in the IPL, but showed good control over his nerves and skills as the league leaders, for once, fell short in a chase. He mounted pressure on Tewatia, Rashid and finally denied David Miller the breadth to hit the winning boundary, as Titans were smothered right at the end. Ishan Kishan chipped in with run-outs of Hardik Pandya and crucially, Tewatia.

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The Titans are still waiting to cement their spot in the playoffs.

As for Mumbai Indians, they managed to pull this off despite talisman Jasprit Bumrah conceding 48 in his four overs. When the two openers were dismissed, it was still Titans’ game with 67 needed off seven overs with eight wickets in hand. But somehow, the five-time champions got their second win in a row, condemning the Titans to their second defeat in succession as the bottom-placed team upset the top-ranked side. Playing spoiler is the only game left for Mumbai Indians.

Openers’ effort wasted

He has been in the news more for his social-media timeline of late, but Saha again showed what an under-rated cricketer he is in this format. Gill took his time getting into his groove on Friday, and it was the wicketkeeper-batsman who took the initiative. Nonchalantly whipping Bumrah over deep midwicket, creaming him through point, and hitting the star India pacer back over his head showed Saha can mix it with the best. In fact, the ‘keeper displayed a special liking for Bumrah during the early part of his innings, a pulled six over long leg proving the point.

Soon, Gill joined the party and runs began flowing from both ends. He was especially severe on spinners M Ashwin and Kumar Kartickeya, employing the slog-sweep to great effect and frequently dancing down the pitch.

Gill even punished Sams for three consecutive boundaries in the eighth over, two through the offside and one through the legside, courtesy a misfield. But the Australian left-arm seamer had the last laugh.

Pollard a pale shadow

Sporting dynasties are built on loyalty. Players are given a long rope if the decision-makers are convinced of their ability, and when they repay the faith, it’s for a long period.

But it also means that it is sometimes tougher to get out of the team than it is to get into it, and players are sometimes carried even when they are past their prime.

Kieron Pollard may be at that stage of his career, having already retired from international cricket. He is not the same player in franchise cricket either. Suspect against high pace as well as quality spin, and even deviation from the straight, the big Trinidadian often sucks the momentum out of an innings, like he did on Friday.

Rohit Sharma had provided the Mumbai Indians innings a rip-roaring start, but once the skipper departed – due to his own overconfidence more than anything – the impetus was lost. From a score of 97/1 at the halfway mark, they could only reach 177/6 after 20 overs – that too after an excellent cameo by Tim David.

Coming back to Pollard, he looks a pale shadow of the batsman who once hooked a full-speed Brett Lee into the top tier of the stands, more than a dozen years ago.

At the Brabourne Stadium, the West Indian couldn’t get left-armer Pradeep Sangwan away when he first came in. When he faced the express pace of Lockie Ferguson, Pollard was found wanting, even when the Kiwi speedster changed his pace down. He looked subdued against both the full and short balls – as if he was waiting for a weaker bowler to come on.

The trouble is there are hardly any in the Gujarat Titans attack. When Rashid Khan came on, Pollard’s bat often didn’t seem to be in the same postcode as the ball. After blocking a couple, he was beaten by a googly before a perfectly-pitched leg-break brought Pollard tentatively forward and turned just enough to hit off-stump.

There was a time not too long ago when Pollard was the designated finisher for Mumbai Indians. Friday’s 4 off 14 balls, after coming to bat in the 13th over, wasn’t what the team needed, especially as his long-time partner-in-crime Hardik Pandya was leading the opposition.

Contrast that with what David managed in the final five overs, after the innings had lost all momentum. He hit Mohammed Shami for a brace of boundaries – one to a full ball and one short of a length. He then hit three seemingly effortless sixes off Shami, Ferguson and Alzarri Joseph before finishing the innings with a big one over deep midwicket.

It took Mumbai Indians to a total that looked sub-par for most of the chase, but turned out to be just enough when it was done and dusted.

Brief Scores

Mumbai Indians: 177 for 6 in 20 overs (Ishan Kishan 45, Rohit Sharma 43, Tim David 44 not out; Rashid Khan 2/24)

Gujarat Titans: 172 for 5 in 20 overs (Wriddhiman Saha 55, Shubman Gill 52, Murugan Ashwin 2/29)

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