Marcus Stoinis grabbed four wickets as Kings XI Punjab’s bowling attack made use of a slow, grippy Visakhapatnam pitch with occasional low bounce to restrict Mumbai Indians to 124. Left with a target they could get to by sticking to cricketing shots, Kings XI coasted to a seven-wicket win with three overs remaining, courtesy half-centuries from M Vijay and Wriddhiman Saha.
The slowness and lowness of the pitch, allied to the discipline of Kings XI’s bowlers, made it hard for Mumbai’s batsmen to time the ball through gaps. Having to rely on muscle rather than pace onto the bat, they struck eight sixes and only five fours. Kings XI hit five fours in the Powerplay. Conditions may have eased out a touch for the side batting second, but the bigger difference was the bowling – Mumbai’s quicks, particularly Mitchell McClenaghan, gave away a number of freebies. McClenaghan was often too short to M Vijay, and offered him ample width as well, while Tim Southee overpitched to Wriddhiman Saha, who drove sweetly between extra cover and mid-off.
Where Mumbai had ended their Powerplay on 21 for 2 – the lowest six-over score of the season Kings XI ended theirs on 32 for 1. Not a massive difference, but significant given they knew they were chasing 125.
Mumbai needed wickets, and a half-chance – perhaps only a quarter-chance evaporated in the seventh over when Harbhajan Singh found turn and bounce to leave Vijay yards out of his crease. But the ball beat Jos Buttler as well, spinning a long way to the wicketkeeper’s left, and sped away for four byes.
Harbhajan tested the batsmen with turn and clever changes of pace, but that was never going to translate into a collapse given the batsmen weren’t going to take undue risks against him. That approach also exposed Krunal Pandya’s limitations as a spin bowler, and Saha and Vijay milked him easily, working him around and punishing the loose balls ruthlessly.
Saha fell soon after both batsmen had reached their half-centuries, dragging a slower bouncer from McClenaghan onto his stumps, and Glenn Maxwell chipped one to mid-on in the same over, but by then Kings XI only needed seven to win.
The team batting first had won both the previous matches at this venue and Rohit Sharma, the Mumbai captain, chose to bat, expecting the pitch to get “slower and slower”. Rohit clipped the first ball of the match for four, as Sandeep Sharma drifted an inswinger too close to his pads, but there would be precious few hit-me balls from Kings XI’s new-ball bowlers thereafter.
The two Sharmas – Mohit and Sandeep – and Stoinis bowled stump to stump, taking the pace off the ball, while the spinners bowled just short of a good length, denying the batsmen hits down the ground. KC Cariappa bowled legbreaks to the right-handers, offbreaks to the left-handers, and spun both varieties sharply.
The ball kept sticking in the pitch, and Mumbai struggled to put the ball away, with a couple of wickets tempering the amount of risk they could take in the early overs. Unmukt Chand chipped Mohit Sharma to mid-on in the second over, and Sandeep swung one through Ambati Rayudu’s gate in the third.
Given the inconsistent bounce, sweeping Axar Patel’s stump-to-stump line wasn’t a high-percentage option, and Rohit was bowled when he got one to keep low in the ninth over. Nitish Rana showed why he is rated highly in this format, with three cleanly struck sixes, but only scored seven runs off the other 25 balls he faced. He was Stoinis’ first victim, nicking a wide, full offcutter.
Mumbai’s run rate was less than five an over when the 15th over began, and they had lost Jos Buttler as well, holing out when he was through a lofted drive too soon off Stoinis. Kieron Pollard and Krunal Pandya hit the spinners for four sixes in two overs to hint at a revival, but Stoinis dismissed both in the 17th, with Pollard another casualty of hitting across one that bounced less than expected.
Mohit and Sandeep have bowled splendidly at the death through the tournament, and they were under far less pressure now than usual, with Mumbai already seven down. Only 20 came off the last three overs, with Mumbai losing two more, and Kings XI knew they only needed to bat sensibly to keep their season alive, just about.