New Delhi: Defending champions Mumbai Indians started off their campaign on a poor note, when in the opening match of IPL 7 they lost to Kolkata Knight Riders, as their batsmen failed to chase down a total of 163 runs. The only bright spot in the match for MI was their prime bowler Lasith Malinga, who bowled exceptionally well and ended up with the figures of 4-0-23-4.
Mumbai played their second match against Royal Challengers Bangalore, who had also lost their first match to Kings XI Punjab. Bangalore won the toss and invited MI to bat. Even after having big names like David Hussey, Rohit Sharma, Kieron Pollard and Corey Anderson, Mumbai`s batting order got collapsed and they only managed to put up 115 runs on the board. Though, Mumbai bowlers, tried their best, they couldn`t manage to defend the modest total and lost the game by seven wickets.
Rohit-led MI`s poor run continued in the next three games as well, as they went on to lose their next to Chennai, Delhi and Hyderabad. No one would have thought that the title holders would start the season on such a disappointing note. Five losses in the first five matches meant that their title defense was certainly over. After a pathetic show in the UAE-leg, even the staunchest MI supporters would have stopped believing that Mumbai would qualify for the play-offs.
In the second leg of the league, Mumbai played the first match at their home ground Wankhede. Even though MI were playing at their fortress, they were up against the robust Punjab, who had won all their five games of the UAE-leg. Punjab won the toss and chose to bat first. All the bowlers bowled well for MI and restricted Punjab to a total of 168 runs.
But Mumbai top-order once again failed to give their team a good start, as they lost two wickets in the first three overs. After that C Gautam and Rohit Sharma stitched a 47-run partnership together for the second wicket to get their team back on track. Later in the innings, cameos by Corey Anderson and Kieron Pollard made sure that the team registered their first win of IPL 7.
Confident Mumbai gained much needed momentum from their first win and went on to beat RCB, in their next game, which was played once again at their home ground. RCB invited Mumbai to bat after winning the toss. Rohit led the team from the front and played a whirlwind knock of 59 off 35 balls.
Cameos from Gautam and Pollard also came in handy as Mumbai set a challenging total of 189 runs to the star studded RCB. But once again Mumbai bowlers bowled their heart out to defend the total successfully and won the match by 19 runs. But in the next match against Dhoni-led CSK, even after more than decent efforts by MI`s bowling unit – especially their seamers, they failed to defend 157 runs. And with that close encounter, MI lost for the first time in the IPL 7 at their home ground.
Inclusion of opener Lendl Simmons in the middle of the tournament gave MI a much needed boost and they registered their third win of the tournament against Hyderabad by seven wickets. But consistency was still missing in the defending champions as in their tenth match, they looked listless against the resurgent Kolkata Knight Riders and lost their seventh match of the tournament, only to blur their hopes to qualifying for the next round.
From there onward, MI had to win all their remaining four matches and on top of it, had to maintain a healthy run rate as well to finish in the top four, which looked highly unlikely at that stage, if not impossible.
In the next match against Rajasthan Royals, MI called back veteran Michael Hussey in the playing XI. The plot worked well for them. Simmons and Hussey added 120 runs for the first wicket in the 14.3 overs. And Rohit’s quick 40 in the end helped them to give RR a challenging target of 178 runs. This time Mumbai spinners spun a web around the Rajasthan batsmen to make sure their team ended up on the winning side.
By now Mumbai not only gained momentum but also discovered a perfect batsman in Simmons to solve their batting issues at the top. In the next game, Mumbai thrashed the most consistent team of the season, Kings XI Punjab by seven wickets. Player that hogged the lime limelight in the match was the opener Simmons, who scored the first hundred of the edition and gave his team a convincing victory over Punjab.
In their 13th match, resurgent Mumbai beat vulnerable Delhi Daredevils by 15 runs to keep their hopes alive for the play-offs spot. But the last league game between RR and MI became a virtual quarter-final match. RR were at the fourth spot in the points tally. So, MI not only had to win the game but they had to seal it with a big margin to have a better run-rate than RR and qualify for the play-offs.
To make matters worse for the title holders, RR gave them a mammoth target of 189 runs to chase, which MI had to achieve in 14.3 overs to book a berth in the playoffs. But Corey Anderson, the Kiwi all-rounder, who had failed to make a mark in IPL 7, played a blinder scoring a 44-ball 95 to give his team an outside chance to get through.
But the equation boiled down to a stage where Mumbai needed a boundary of the fourth ball of the 15th over to secure a place in the play-offs. And as destiny would have it, Aditya Tare scored that boundary to take their team home. From nowhere to finish in the top four, MI have certainly come a long way in this edition.
Now in the play-offs, Mumbai have to face Chennai Super Kings in the second qualifier of the tournament. But can they reach the final or defend their title is yet to be seen.