MI stays afloat with a nail-biting win

K.L. Rahul played yet another scintillating knock, but couldn't take Kings XI Punjab past the finish line.

Kieron Pollard plays a shot during the match between Mumbai Indians and Kings XI Punjab at the Wankhede Stadium on Wednesday.   -  Vivek Bendre

Andrew Tye pegged the Mumbai Indians back with his exceptional bowling variations; K.L. Rahul played yet another gem at the top and Aaron Finch finally made a contribution of note with the willow. Still, it was not enough to help Kings XI Punjab end Mumbai Indians' campaign and more importantly, improve its chances of making it to the Indian Premier League Playoffs.

Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

 

In a match that was stretched well beyond the midnight, thanks to a 12-minute interruption due to floodlight failure coupled with miserable over rate by both the teams, Mumbai Indians defended a total of 186 for eight to keep its campaign alive.

The stars of the night for the home team were Kieron Pollard, who marked his return return to the team with a sterling fifty, and the ever-reliable Jasprit Bumrah. Not only did Bumrah bowl a miserly spell but most importantly, he got the prize scalp of Rahul in the penultimate over to leave Yuvraj Singh and Axar Patel a stiff task of scoring 17 runs in the last over.

HOW THEY FARED:

TOP BUYYOUNG GUN

K. L. Rahul

The Kings XI Punjab opener continued to sizzle in the IPL, scoring a 60-ball 94, in vain, to gain the purple cap.

Mayank Markande

The 20-year-old spinner gave away 34 runs in his three overs, without gaining a wicket. Batting at No. 10, he scored an unbeaten seven.

 

Mitchell McClenaghan kept his nerves to concede 13 and ensure its last game on Sunday in Delhi will not be a mere formality.

The three-run loss loss, on the other hand, will make it extremely difficult for the Kings to enter the last four since its Net Run Rate is the worst among all eight teams.

When Pollard joined Krunal Pandya in the middle, Mumbai Indians was tottering at 71 for four in the ninth over. The burly Caribbean gave a glimpse with a cover-drive off Marcus Stoinis before opening up his shoulders against Patel's left-arm spin. Krunal also upped the ante in no time as the duo's quickfire parternship had set Mumbai Indians up for a 200-plus target.

But Tye and R. Ashwin brought Kings XI into the game again. When Tye was reintroduced into the attack in the 17th over, captain Ashwin had broken the dangerous partnership, having accounted for Pollard in the previous over. The Australian then continued to bamboozle the MI lower order with his pace variations to concede just 11 runs in his last two overs. In fact, Ashwin and Tye combined to concede just 23 runs from the 16th to 19th over to ensure Mumbai Indians didn't run away with the game.

Tye, meanwhile, was at his best right through the day. Introduced into the attack in the fourth over of the evening after Suryakumar Yadav and Evin Lewis had gotten off to another blitzkrieg, Tye sneaked through Lewis' defence off the first ball he bowled. In his next over, the last of the Powerplay, he struck off successive balls to leave MI tottering at 60 for three. He first coerced another left-hander Ishan Kishan into a skier before doing Yadav in with a short ball.

Qualification scenario

In terms of the playoff qualification, Mumbai Indians needed to win to stay afloat in the competition. It did so on Wednesday night by the narrowest of margins, to stay in contention for the valuable fourth spot in the points table. Although the team has had a topsy-turvy tourney so far, it has established a reasonably healthy net run-rate, a factor that can come in handy.

Ahead of Wednesday's game, its net run-rate was +0.405. Despite the close nature of the contest against Kings XI Punjab, its NRR is still +0.384, much better than Rajasthan Royals (-0.403), Kings XI Punjab (-0.490) and Royal Challengers Bangalore (+0.218), its competitors for the fourth spot. Kolkata Knight Riders is reasonably certain to go through at this point.

What Mumbai Indians needs to do: On May 20, it plays Delhi Daredevils, a team which is out of the race for the playoffs. It has to win this match; if it does so, it is likely to go through to the next round even if Rajasthan Royals and Kings XI Punjab win their respective matches, and Royal Challengers wins its next two games. This is due to its NRR, which is a big advantage over its competitors. If it loses against DD, it is out the race and either RR, Kings XI or RCB will go through.

Despite a narrow loss, Kings XI Punjab is still in the race for the playoffs, although now it cannot do so solely on its own merit. If it had defeated MI, it would have gathered 14 points and made a playoff spot reasonably certain for itself. However, the loss may hurt. What works against Kings XI in the current scenario is its net run-rate of -0.490

What Kings XI Punjab needs to do: Kings XI Punjab not only has to defeat Chennai Super Kings in its last match of the league stage, on May 20, but also hope for MI to falter. If it wins its final game, and MI wins, too, the last spot will be decided on the net run-rate, making it highly likely for MI to seal the spot. However, if MI stumbles and RR defeats RCB, Kings XI's win may be enough for it to go through, too, as its NRR is similar to RR. If RCB wins its next two matches, however, KXIP is likely to bow out.

If KXIP loses its final match, it bows out of the race as well.