The face-off between MI’s bowling and RCB’s batting should be enthralling
Mumbai Indians bowling, spearheaded by the lethal Lasith Malinga in action during the death overs, did well to restrict high-flying Kings XI Punjab to 168 and prolific Glenn Maxwell to 45 in a home game on Saturday.
Three days later on a batting beauty at the Wankhede, a bigger challenge awaits in the shape of Royal Challengers Bangalore. With the home team batsmen recovering poise in familiar conditions, the responsibility is now on the attack to put the visitors under pressure.
In the RCB camp, AB de Villiers is a T20 specialist cast in a destructive mould none can match in IPL-7, able to improvise as per field setting. Apart from the South African, the RCB batting star cast has such depth that any of the top four out of five hitters can win matches on their own.
MI will need to devise ways to curb Chris Gayle, Virat Kohli, de Villiers and Yuvraj Singh, apart from gutsy opener Parthiv Patel taking advantage of field restrictions in the Powerplay overs.
MI can take comfort from the fact bowlers did their job in the UAE when batsmen struggled, resulting in the holder losing five ties in a row till the turnaround happened on home turf at the Wankhede stadium.
Malinga’s radar was spot on, experienced off-spinner Harbhajan Singh hustled quality KXIP batsmen with turn. The wickets of aggressive Maxwell and George Bailey at a critical stage in the contest will boost his confidence for Tuesday’s face-off against Gayle, Kohli and Yuvraj.
Pollard the bowler can make an impact against such clean hitters due to high delivery action and knack for varying pace, therby denying stroke-makers the momentum to feed on.
The powerful West Indian is slowing regaining confidence at the crease, dealing only in fours and sixes in two back-to-back games, so a positive effect on the bowling form cannot be ruled out. MI expects runs from Harbhajan as well down the order, now that wickets under pressure helped this former skipper to regain respect in the middle.
Zaheer Khan did not complete his fourth over against KXIP and walked off holding his shoulder. Pacemen breaking down midway is an occupational hazard. He represented RCB from 2011 onwards, so the visitors know what to expect anyway. MI has many bowling options to choose from.
Springing surprises on rivals is par for the course in T20 and a new face in the bowling line-up won’t rattle RCB, winning three games out of six played.
MI went down tamely when the two met in neutral Dubai last month.
The India leg in a different setting is a different ball game.