The Indian Premier League 2017 (IPL 2017), as anticipated, has been engaging and entertaining so far after the first 10 matches. As always, predicting a result in the tournament has been tricky because a surprise performance from a team is always around the corner. The latest game between the Mumbai Indians (MI) and Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) at the former’s home ground, Wankhede Stadium, on Wednesday, went the way of the hosts.
Mumbai kicked off IPL 2017 with an away loss against Rising Pune Supergiants (RPS) in Rajkot, but turned things around in their first home match against Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR). KKR were high on confidence as they had thrashed Gujarat Lions by 10 wickets in their previous match.
Though Mumbai had come off a loss, the Rohit Sharma-led side recovered and registered their maiden victory in IPL 2017. Following the loss against Pune, Mumbai made a crucial change for the second match dropping Ambati Rayudu in place of their former captain Harbhajan Singh.
Coming into IPL 2017, there were a few doubts regarding Harbhajan's position in the squad. The spinner had not featured heavily in the domestic circuit and had taken a break to spend some quality time with his daughter.
Although the veteran failed to make any difference in the game against Kolkata, he played a significant role in their win against defending champions, SRH, on Wednesday. Harbhajan hardly made any impact last year and picked only nine wickets in 14 games.
Mumbai's two successive victories, and one of those being against the defending champions, has shown that they have put the poor 2016 season behind them and are determined to give some tough fight in the ongoing edition. A match-winning performance from their most experienced and senior-most player, Harbhajan, was the cherry on the top.
Even though the spinner failed to extract the turn he always did on the Wankhede track, he managed to maintain the right length and pace that helped him make crucial breakthroughs which eventually worked in the favour of his team.
Similar to SRH’s previous match against GL, where Suresh Raina himself opened the bowling with his off-break bowling, Rohit handed the ball immediately to Harbhajan on Wednesday. Moreover, David Warner has had a poor record on the Mumbai track. In three IPL innings prior to the 2017 clash, he had managed to score 71 runs off 46 balls. The Indian bowler did a pretty good job as he gave away only two runs in the first over.
At the end of the powerplay overs, Sunrisers had only 34 runs on the board. Both Dhawan and Warner struggled and could not play their shots freely. The fireworks commenced after the sixth over; Dhawan targeted McClenaghan and smashed him for two boundaries and a six. The 15 runs off the seventh over released the pressure off both the players and the two looked to finally get going.
In a T20 match, when the batsman is on fire, a spinner can either make the situation worse by leaking runs or can take a wicket and put a stop on the runs. Mumbai had Harbhajan, who stands fifth on the overall most wickets' charts of the IPL with 121 scalps in 127 IPL games, and the experienced bowler was recalled in the hope that he would break the partnership.
Warner welcomed Harbhajan with a sweep that went for a six over the third man boundary; the Australian then tried to repeat it with a reverse-sweep this time, but failed to connect and only managed a top edge and Parthiv Patel ran quickly to his left and dived full length to complete a stunning catch.
Two overs later, Harbhajan was called back for his final over. He proved to be vital again as he made a breakthrough in his very first ball. He removed Deepak Hooda and finished his four overs with figures of 2 for 23. His economy of 5.75 was the best among the Mumbai bowlers.
Harbhajan was smart enough to use the crease to flight the ball wide and that particular trick worked and successfully put the brakes on the Sunrisers innings.
After a spectacular show with the ball, he made a minute contribution with the bat as well when he came in to bat when Mumbai needed four runs off 12 balls. He faced three balls and also hit the winning runs for Mumbai. Although Mumbai’s fast bowler Jasprit Bumrah was the Player of the Match for his 3 for 24, Harbhajan’s performance carried equal weight-age in Mumbai's win.
The turning point in the match was easily Warner’s dismissal; had he been there for a long time, SRH surely would have put up a huge total on the board. Thanks to Harbhajan, Warner was denied a half-century and Sunrisers set a mere target of 159 runs, which Rohit Sharma and his boys chased with four wickets and eight balls to spare.