Battle of the top two teams from the league phase in the first match of the playoffs is always expected to be tight game, a nail-biter, packed with edge-of-the-seat moments. And there was, on Thursday night in Dubai when defending champions Mumbai Indians had taken on Delhi Capitals in the first Qualifier of IPL 2020, but for a brief moment. Delhi managed to trouble Mumbai in their strongest batting zone, the middle overs, but failed to capitalise, as their skipper admitted, and thereafter, simply vanished into oblivion. Mumbai's Cruciatus Curse - Ishan Kishan and Hardik Pandya's onslaught, coupled with Boult-Bumrah magic - left Delhi crippled and writhing in pain and eventually succumbing to a 57-run defeat. Here are all the talking points from Qualifier 1 in Dubai...
1) Mumbai Indians' tactical ploy: MI have as many as three left-handers in their lineup - Quinton de Kock, Ishan Kishan and Krunal Pandya. It was this very reason why Capitals had preferred Praveen Dubey, a wrist-spinner, in their last game against Mumbai, who also had a fourth left-hander Saurabh Tiwary in the lineup then. Comprehending his match-up escape, Mumbai promoted Krunal Pandya ahead of his brother Hardik when they lost Kieron Pollard in the 13th over. This implied that Delhi had to remove Axar from the attack and went ahead with Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje to get rid of any of one of the left-handers, Ishan being the other batsman at the crease. However, with both being taken to the boundaries, Shreyas Iyer turned to his only other unused-bowling option at hand, Marcus Stoinis, who dismissed Krunal in his very first ball.
"I think we were on top when we got two quick wickets, and they were 102-4. We could have capitalized more at that time, and gotten two more wickets - maybe we could've chased around 170, but it's part and parcel of the game. Every night can't be yours," Iyer later said in the post-match presentation.
2) Should Stoinis have bowled another in the death over ahead of Daniel Sams? In the one over Stoinis bolwed, he conceded only five runs including a wicket in the 17th over. But Iyer brought back Sams for the next before shift back to Rabada and Nortje. There is one particular angle of yorker that has managed to keep Hardik quite, from the left-armer, like SRH's T Natarajan had managed. But to get the length accurate against Hardik is difficukt as he stands well deep inside the crease to shift the length or yorker into his slot. Iyer probably used Sams for the same reason, but missed it in his first ball and Hardik nailed it for a six. He added four more off the next three balls he faced in that over against Sams, who managed to deliver that one perfect yorker.
3) Rohit's playoff struggles: Despite the maverick he is in limited-overs cricket, Rohit has failed to score big in knockout matches. In 18 playoff innings in IPL, Rohit has managed just 229 runs at an average of 13.47 with eight single-digit scores and three ducks, the last one happened on Thursday night when R Ashwin trapped him lbw in his first ball. It was also his 13th duck in IPL, equalling him for the most with Prithvi Shaw and Harbhajan Singh.
4) Boult-Bumrah magic: The pair has been the formidable combination this season and had even cleaned up Delhi's batting order in the previous game where Mumbai won by nine wickets. Yet Shikhar Dhawan was confident about taking on the pair. Talking to the media ahead of Qualifier 1, the opener said, "At the moment, I’m just relaxing and keeping myself fresh for tomorrow. I’ve seen them plenty of times – have watched the videos and I already know their plans, so I am prepared, and will just go out there tomorrow and perform."
16 hours later, the lightning Boult struck again, with a double-wicket maiden before Bumrah cleaned up the Dhawan in the next over leaving Delhi completely dumbstruck.
Boult got the softest of touch with the away-moving delivery to dismiss Prithvi Shaw in the second ball of the chase and then trapped Rahane lbw off an inswinger two balls later. The twin strikes took his powerplay tally to 14 this season, four more than second-placed Jofra Archer, seven of which came in the very first over, also a record for a single IPL season. Against Dhawan, it was a masterful yorker from Bumrah that crashed into the base of his sticks. With Delhi three down for no runs, Rohit persisted with the pair for the fourth time this season and Bumrah returned with another ni wicket, dismissed Iyer for 12 in the fourth over. Delhi finished the powerplay with 32 for four.