Cuttack, May 14 UNI | 2 months ago

Mumbai Indians were throttled by Knight Riders' bowlers today here at the Barabati Stadium for 140-odd before Uthappa and Gambhir set the base for a comfortable chase.


Three days ago, when Kolkata Knight Riders played here, they were the away team and the stands were awash in the silver and red of Kings XI Punjab. Today, there was a sea change as the stadium was purple and gold, and Knight Riders were the home team, however there was little difference in the pattern the match followed.

It was a tricky surface to bat on, with the spinners getting some bite, and the ball routinely staying low. Knight Riders got their strategy right for this pitch, by bringing in Shakib Al Hasan at the expense of Jacques Kallis to strengthen a spin department that already had Sunil Narine and Piyush Chawla.

All three played their part: Shakib choked the runs and planted doubts with a grubber that dismissed opener Lendl Simmons, Chawla broke the stand between Mumbai's main Indian batsmen, Ambati Rayudu and Rohit Sharma, before Narine did what he unfailingly does in virtually every game - be un-hittable in the death.

Rohit struggled early on but capitalised on a sitter put down by Yusuf Pathan to go on to make a half-century. But even with a middle-order line-up reading Rohit, Corey Anderson and Kieron Pollard, only three out of the final ten overs went for more than eight runs. Yet again, Mumbai struggled to make the best use of their biggest hitter, Pollard, who came in as late as the 17th over, and was tied down by the spinners.

Mumbai needed early wickets if they were to make a game of this, but Gambhir and Uthappa put on their fourth successive half-century partnership for the opening wicket. Though Gambhir inside-edged onto the stumps for 14, Uthappa went on make his highest score in the IPL to ensure the game didn't slip away. On a track where no other batsman looked comfortable, Uthappa timed the ball superbly as he extended his rich vein of form.

Once again, the lack of depth in Mumbai's bowling was exposed. Harbhajan Singh gave Mumbai a whiff of a chance by dismissing Manish Pandey in the 15th over, but instead of going for the kill, Mumbai turned to Simmons' dibbly-dobblies.

Uthappa caned them for a couple of sixes to drain away the last of Mumbai's hopes, not just for the game but almost certainly for the season as well. Even winning their remaining four matches is unlikely to be enough for Mumbai to reach the playoffs.

(Posted on 15-05-2014)