KOLKATA: Mitchell McClenaghan walked out at No. 4 for Mumbai Indians. It is not like the side is short of hitters but Jos Buttler caught fire only after the spark provided by McClenaghan’s eight-ball 20. The events between the 11th and the 15th overs of the chase decided the winner of the match – Mumbai, by six wickets.
McClenaghan’s responsibility – under normal circumstances – was to slip into Lasith Malinga’s shoes. Be the wicket-taker at the start and the enforcer at the end. Today, he was asked to disrupt the Kolkata Knight Riders’ rhythm. And he was given the freedom to do so. Every single shot played by the New Zealand fast bowler was a slog. His second, third and fourth balls cleared the Eden Gardens boundaries. The eighth – a wide full toss that he tried to slog sweep – led to his downfall but by then Mumbai had regained lost momentum. And Buttler simply ran with it.
A straight drive against chinaman Brad Hogg was followed by a pulled six. The equation shrunk from 101 off 60 balls to 49 off 30. A scoop to the fine leg boundary – which established Buttler’s finesse – and two lofted cover drives – which established his power – deflated Knight Riders. Gautam Gambhir, who had taken the record (27) for the most fifties in the IPL earlier in the night, watched the ball soar and the chances for his team sink with every minute Buttler was on strike.
When Buttler eventually fell for 41 off 22 balls, the Mumbai captain, Rohit Sharma, back at his preferred opening position, provided more evidence of why he should be given as many overs as possible in a T20 game. Rohit held the innings together and even finished it off with an array of beautiful shots – a straight six and a deft glide to third man. He followed those up with an outrageous sweep taking an overpitched delivery coming at him with the express pace of Andre Russell from around the wicket, and deposited it at the midwicket boundary.