Under the scanner due to his fitness issues, Hardik Pandya produced a timely knock (40 not out off 30 balls) that earned Mumbai Indians a vital six-wicket win over Punjab Kings at the Zayed Cricket Stadium on Tuesday. Stroke-making didn’t appear to be too easy on the Abu Dhabi surface, especially against spinners and when the pace was taken off the ball. Sent in to bat, Punjab labored to 135/6, thanks to Aiden Markram (42) and his 61-run stand with Deepak Hooda for the fifth wicket.
Holders Mumbai Indians beat Punjab Kings by six wickets to move up to fifth in the table on Tuesday in the Indian Premier League (IPL). Punjab slips to sixth, ahead of Rajasthan Royals who meet Virat Kohli’s Royal Challengers Bangalore on Wednesday. Hardik Pandya, who hit 40 off 30 balls, and Kieron Pollard, who made 15, put on an unbeaten stand of 45 for the fifth wicket as Mumbai achieved their target of 126 in 19 overs.
Top-scorer Saurabh Tiwary (45) and Quinton de Kock (27) also played key knocks in another low-scoring contest. Mumbai found the run chase to be tough right from the onset and it looked harder for them when a well-set Saurabh Tiwary (45) departed with still 44 needed off 29 balls. Hardik wasn’t looking very settled and was also given a reprieve on 7 when a relatively easy chance was put down off the bowling of Arshdeep Singh, who was economical till his final over that went for 13.
Pollard (15 not out off 7 balls), who earlier took two wickets, hit Arshdeep for a four and a maximum in the 18th over. Thereafter, in the penultimate over, the experienced Mohammed Shami erred in his line and length and that gave Hardik adequate room to chance his arms. Mumbai clinched the game in that over itself. Hardik hit a four and a six off the last two balls of the 19th over. Mumbai pace bowler Jasprit Bumrah and Pollard took two wickets each to help restrict Punjab to 135-9 despite Aiden Markram’s 42.
Pollard took his wicket total to 300 in T20 cricket after sending back Punjab skipper KL Rahul. The West Indies all-rounder became the first player in T20 history with 10,000 runs and 300 wickets. Punjab Kings captain KL Rahul blamed the batsmen for the defeat. “It was a great fight, but 135 was not enough on this pitch. We should have got about 170. The boys showed a lot of fight with the ball, we have done that two games in a row,” he said.
“The next three games will be interesting for us as the table looks interesting. It is what it is, we haven’t been able to handle the pressure. We’ll learn more if we play more together as a team. We need to be positive. “We have three games, so we need to take one game at a time. We need to go out there and enjoy ourselves. All our games in the UAE have gone down to the wire, hopefully, we can build on that,” he added. Meanwhile, Mumbai captain Rohit was happy that his team won the match despite not playing their best cricket.
“As a team, we didn’t play to our potential, but these things happen when you play in such a format where you’re competing really hard. It’s important to stay within the group, stick with each other. It’s a long tournament,” Rohit said after the match. “Yes we didn’t have the run we would have liked but we have been in this situation many times so we can take confidence from that. The guys we have in the squad are ready to fight.” Rohit was also very happy with the way Hardik played on Tuesday.
“The way he understood the situation was important from the team perspective and for himself also. It’s important he spent some time in the middle,” he said. The opening batsman was all praise for man-of-the-match Pollard. “He’s one of our key players. Been a crucial part of MI for so many years. Give him the ball, give him the bat, he’s ready to do the job. Those two wickets were crucial. He’ll be happy getting the man-of-the-match for his bowling performance,” he said.