In Twenty20 cricket, with its hyperbolic, exaggerated presentation, it is easy to forget about the small moments. It is the big ones that remain imprinted on your mind, as much because of their conspicuous importance as the manner of their acclaim on commentary and social media.
When the Mumbai Indians score 40 off their final 18 balls, Kieron Pollard scores 28 off 12 and Aditya Tare scores 16 off 6 to win a chase of 169 against the Kings XI Punjab with five balls to spare, it is too easy to overlook other performances from other players earlier on in the match that made such an assault possible and pivotal.
There's no doubting Pollard's blitz and Tare's cameo were the determining factors of Mumbai's victory; a victory that ended their worst-ever losing streak and snapped Kings XI Punjab's eight consecutive wins. But Lasith Malinga, CM Gautam, Rohit Sharma and Corey Anderson all played important hands earlier in the match to help lay the platform for the match winners, Pollard and Tare.
Malinga's influential performance was when he bowled the 20th over of Kings XI Punjab's innings and conceded only three runs. It was an over of such frugality that in a match won by Mumbai with just five balls to spare, it's fair to say that it was pivotal to their victory.
The 19th over, bowled by Pollard, was hit for 20 with Wriddhiman Saha and David Miller striking sixes, and Kings XI would certainly have been eyeing up another big over with two set batsmen at the crease and just six balls remaining. But each delivery in the final over from Malinga was full and straight—the first two were dot balls, the third a wicket, with two and one scored off the fourth and fifth, and a dot ball to finish.
Malinga has a staggering record in the final five overs of IPL matches, with 71 wickets at an average of just 11. He demonstrated the class that has earned him such a record in those six balls.
However, bowling has not really been the problem for the Mumbai Indians so far in IPL 7. It has been the batting that has characterised their five consecutive defeats.
Thus the three innings played by CM Gautam (33 off 29), Rohit Sharma (39 off 34) and Corey Anderson (35 off 25) can be seen to be particularly important to Mumbai's victory.
As I wrote in my recent team-by-team review, Mumbai are a side whose success has been defined by solid starts and explosive finishes. This season, their explosive players have not been coming in during situations in which they can play their natural game because of the failures of the top order.
Although today MI were again reeling early on at 23-2, the third-wicket partnership between Gautam and Rohit of 47, and the fourth-wicket partnership between Sharma and Anderson of 53 (Mumbai's fourth- and fifth-highest partnerships of the season) added stability to the chase.
Anderson struck a flurry of boundaries off one Akshar Patel over, and by the time Kieron Pollard came to the crease, Mumbai were 123/4 and required 46 off 27 deliveries at an asking rate of 11 runs per over. Although this was still a steep task, the fact that they were just a Pollard-blitz short of victory was something they had not managed all season.
Pollard is a pivotal player to Mumbai because of the emphasis placed on him in their predominant strategy. Pollard being in form is paramount if they are to stand any chance of play-off qualification, but he has to be coming to the crease in situations that suit him. On Saturday, that was the case. In that match, as he did against SRH, although in a far more difficult and eventually unsuccessful chase, he fired.
Admittedly, the strike rates of Gautam (113) and Rohit (114) could be improved upon, and that would have made Pollard's late chase even easier. But before Mumbai start worrying about slightly low strike rates, they need to make sure they are not getting out—something that before today, they were not managing.
Pollard and Tare won the match for Mumbai today, but Malinga, Gautam, Rohit and Anderson set it up. It is a positive sign that Mumbai's first win has come as a result of a strong team performance.