What a start we have had to the second leg of IPL 2021, and today's competition takes the cream as we witnessed two of the best teams in the league battle it out with the hopes of qualifying for the playoffs. The Mumbai Indians took on the Kolkata Knight Riders at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi. The Mumbai Indians had a huge boost with the return of their mercurial captain Rohit Sharma. Hardik Pandya missed out in consecutive games due to a persistent problem with his back. This must be alarming to the selectors of the Indian Cricket Team, as he is a vital cog in their pursuit for the T20 World Cup. The Kolkata Knight Riders went into the game with a largely unchanged side from their dominating victory against the Royal Challengers Bangalore.
The pitch seemed to be a fresh one with a bit of grass on it, helping the seamers with a good pace and bounce. The spinners are the ones who benefitted the most due to the longer boundaries as they picked up the most mistakes. Eoin Morgan looked to replicate their near-perfect game against RCB as they won the toss and chose to bowl to put pressure on the Mumbai Indians batting lineup. Mumbai's innings was off to a flyer as Quinton de Kock and Rohit Sharma were at their best as they paced the innings perfectly and found the boundary at will. Rohit Sharma's return was a major boost for his team as the captain led from the front and seemed to be in fine form till an unnecessary shot led to him losing his wicket. Quinton de Kock picked up from where he left as he wat his best and wreaked havoc on the KKR bowling lineup, who had no answers for him.
Mumbai could not keep up the blistering start as their middle order failed to perform yet again. A couple of lazy shots and a lack of willingness to be quicker between the wickets led to key dismissals, with the likes of Pollard and Yadav departing early. However, de Kock's huge 55 run innings helped guide Mumbai to a competitive total of 155 at the end of 20 overs despite having a larger total in mind after their tremendous start. It was now up to Jasprit Bumrah and co to restrict an in-form KKR batting lineup and lead their team to victory.
The match seemed to be slipping away from Mumbai as Venkatesh Iyer got KKR off to a blistering start, hitting timely boundaries and slicing the potent Mumbai bowling attack. Iyer continued his fine form from the previous game as he finally got the half-century that everyone was craving for. His humungous partnership with Rahul Tripathi set his team up perfectly to chase the total down with ease. Rahul Tripathi seemed to be in sublime form as he walloped the Mumbai bowling unit and dispatched the ball all over the field. Jasprit Bumrah proved to be the thorn in KKR's side yet again as he made another crucial breakthrough after snapping up Iyer's wicket. Mumbai still had a chance of getting back into the game, and all they needed was a couple of more wickets to put pressure on KKR. Unfortunately for Mumbai, Tripathi took that opportunity away from them as he saw his team through after a humongous 74-run innings with overs to spare.
Kolkata Knight Riders have come from behind to become frontrunners to qualify for the final play-offs spot and maybe even go all the way. The team looks are in the form of their lives, with contributions from 1 to 11. This side looks completely different under the leadership of Eoin Morgan after the debacle in the first leg of IPL 2021.
"It's been a long time since we've played like this. Baz has taken over for almost two seasons, so the way we are playing is now getting into his style. To hold such a strong Mumbai team, and chase it down in the manner we did gives us confidence. We were trying to fit Iyer into the XI with a lot of talented guys, and it's fantastic with the manner he has scored runs. We never put a number on him, on how many games he will get. In the practice games, he has gone out to play this way. Baz backs him to the hilt. Just a second game for him but played with full confidence. Sunil and Varun are formidable bowlers. Sunil has been integral in winning KKR championships in the past. Varun is a fresh guy. The first two games in this second phase have been a great template for us to play. There's only one way for us to go in the points table, and that's up," said KKR captain Eoin Morgan in a post-match interview with Star Sports.
Mumbai, on the other hand, faces an uphill battle to retain the fourth spot after coming into the second leg with massive expectations. One thing is for sure though, you cannot count out Rohit Sharma or his side as that decision might come to bite you sooner than later.
"Few areas. We started really well but didn't get enough in the back end. Was a good pitch to bat on. Failed to capitalise on the start. We didn't bowl pretty well to start with. We spoke about being on the stumps and let the batters take chances - however that didn't happen. Things like that can happen. The basics of cricket are that you make small partnerships. That stopped us from taking on the bowlers. We've fought well in the past really well, hopefully, all of us can pull together. Points table is always there in the back of the mind. Important to know where you stand. I am ok," said Rohit Sharma in a post-match interview with Star Sports.