Middle-overs malaise hurts Mumbai Indians again

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Zaheer Khan, Mumbai Indians’ Director of Cricket Operations, foresaw a decisive period of play ahead of the clash against Rajasthan Royals. Speaking about Rahul Chahar’s brief in his team, Zaheer said that his most important trait was his “wicket-taking ability in the middle overs”. Elaborating, Zaheer went on to say, “that phase is going to be very important”. You’d wonder if that message was passed on to the batting group as well. T20 superstars and teams are often built around the big-hitters in the first six overs or the final stages of an innings. But an emerging trend in IPL 2019 so far, through the Mumbai Indians, has been the importance of the middle overs in batting.
Their loss against Rajasthan Royals on Saturday presented yet another instance of a growing problem. Mumbai knocked off 57 in the PowerPlay with Quinton de Kock marginally outscoring Rohit Sharma. The duo also bettered their best opening stand of the tournament, which meant that they were around till the 11th over, and going at a rate of just under nine runs per over.De Kock, who got his 50 off 34 balls, went on to take another 18 balls for 31. It was also a period that saw his partners struggling at the other end. Shreyas Gopal, who has had a fantastic IPL so far – 8 wickets at an economy rate of 6.42 – spun a web around Kieron Pollard (6 from 12 balls) in his final over, giving away just 2 runs. Suryakumar Yadav had scratched around for a 10-ball 16 before that. This meant Mumbai went through a five-over period in which their top batsmen could muster just 38. A flourish from Hardik Pandya took them closer to 200, than the 220 that they had threatened a little earlier.As the tight finish to the match showed, those middle overs could have just been the difference between victory and defeat. For Rajasthan paced their innings differently to their usual blueprint. They PowerPlay overs comparison left little to choose between the two teams (Rajasthan made 59 to Mumbai’s 57). But Ajinkya Rahane, who enjoys a good run at the Wankhede, outscored Jos Buttler, making a timely shift from his role of an anchor. Post Rahane’s dismissal, Buttler wasted no time for consolidation and instead ran riot in a period that saw 86 runs scored in just 40 balls, squeezing out boundaries even off yorkers.