Royal Challengers Bangalore’s final league game was delayed by an hour due to a couple of low-intensity blasts outside the stadium. The organisers decided to go ahead with the match, and spectators were ushered into the stands amid heightened security.
Once the match began, Mumbai Indians, already in the semi-finals, sent a strong message to their rivals by crushing second-placed Bangalore, whose net run-rate took a beating but remained just high enough to make them favourites for a semi-final spot. Mumbai also brushed aside any criticism about them being overly reliant on orange-cap holder and captain Sachin Tendulkar, whose rare failure didn’t prevent the table-toppers from amassing 191 on a greenish track.
Ambati Rayudu has been the best of the ICL returnees this season, and added to his growing reputation with another power-hitting cameo that jumpstarted Mumbai after a dawdling start. Kieron Pollard briefly showed why he was so sought-after during this year’s auction, after which JP Duminy’s clinical finishing silenced the home crowd, as it had when he lashed an unbeaten 99 in the Champions League.
Needing to score at nearly 10 an over from the outset, Bangalore were rarely in the chase, plodding to 12 after three overs and losing both openers on 34 in the Powerplay. There was still hope for a deep Bangalore batting line-up, but once Harbhajan Singh removed both Kevin Pietersen and Rahul Dravid in quick succession, the required-rate spiralled above 13. That proved too much even for the home side’s biggest hitters, Robin Uthappa and Ross Taylor, both of whom were foxed by slower ones, and Bangalore’s focus shifted to reducing the margin of defeat and keeping their net run-rate from slinking too low.
Bangalore’s best phase of the match was the Powerplay after choosing to bowl. Tendulkar walked out with his fourth opening partner in four matches, Ryan McLaren, but the new combination could only squeeze 30 runs in six overs off the home side’s quick bowlers. McLaren made slow progress and Tendulkar wasn’t at his best either, falling just before the end of the Powerplay to a low catch by Ross Taylor at deep square leg.
It was in the ninth over that Mumbai switched to top gear. Rayudu launched an onslaught on Pankaj Singh, preferred again to Praveen Kumar, lashing 22 off the over to boost the run-rate to a more Twenty20 level. He benefited from Bangalore’s clumsy catching, when Vinay Kumar palmed an overhead chance over the rope at long-on.
A couple of quiet overs followed before Rayudu decided to take on the tournament’s most economical bowler, Kumble. He clubbed consecutive sixes over long-on off the Bangalore captain, and backed that up with a couple of fours against Kallis, before a sharp, short delivery forced him to offer a return catch.
Despite that sustained hitting, the crowd wasn’t expecting a target near 200 after the sluggish Mumbai start. But Pollard, who murdered the Delhi Daredevils attack in his previous match, continued in the same vein, slamming three consecutive sixes to round off a forgettable day for Pankaj. Kumble, though, made it a short stay for Pollard by tricking him with a quicker delivery, trapping him lbw.
Bangalore thought they had got rid of the danger man but Duminy continued his love affair with the Chinnaswamy Stadium with a controlled cameo. He started by thumping Kevin Pietersen over long-off and then caned Kallis’ length deliveries for 19 runs in the 18th over. A boundary each in final two overs pushed him to 42 off 19, and Mumbai had taken 113 off the final nine overs.