In a game that saw both teams score above 200 at the batter’s paradise that is the Wankhede Stadium, it was ultimately one sensational death-bowling spell that proved to the difference.
Left-arm seamer Arshdeep Singh emerged the hero as Punjab Kings won a high-scoring thriller against the Mumbai Indians in Match 31 of IPL 2023 on Saturday. Arshdeep grabbed 4 for 29 in what is one of the standout performances his nascent career so far, helping Punjab survive a spirited fightback from Mumbai and collect their fourth win of the season in seven matches.
Arshdeep’s stocks had steadily been rising in the IPL over the years and his consistency in the world’s biggest T20 league is what helped him break into the Indian team last year. And in the current season of the Indian Premier League, where he returns to the Punjab Kings lineup on the back of international success, Arshdeep appears to have taken his game a notch higher with the left-arm pacer from Guna, Madhya Pradesh having played a central role with the ball in two of their four wins so far.
A first innings total of 214 normally would have a team quite relaxed during the innings break. However, in a fast-paced format where miracles happen more often than one would assume possible, no team can afford to breath easy even with such a big score on the board, especially at a high-scoring venue like the Wankhede against a power-packed batting lineup such as Mumbai’s.
Arshdeep, though, ensured Punjab would start off on an ideal note as he got rid of in-form Mumbai opener Ishan Kishan off his second delivery — the first legal one that is — of the evening.
Five-time champions MI however, have been a different beast since opening their account against the Delhi Capitals, winning three matches on the trot including two away from home with a number of their batters suddenly regaining form.
Skipper Rohit Sharma led Mumbai’s fightback with a 27-ball 44, stitching a 76-run second-wicket stand with Cameron Green. Once he perished after offering Liam Livingstone a catch off his own bowling, it was Green who shifted gears and kept Mumbai in the hunt along with an equally explosive Suryakumar Yadav, who smashed a 23-ball half-century and added 75 for the third wicket with the Australian all-rounder.
At 159/2 in the 16th over with Green and SKY going all guns blazing at the centre, Mumbai’s chances of pulling off a fourth consecutive win had received a great boost with the dugout appearing quite relaxed. And despite Green getting dismissed by compatriot Nathan Ellis for 67, MI were very much in the chase with the hard-hitting Tim David joining Surya at the centre and Tilak Varma and Nehal Wadhera padded up in the dugout.
Arshdeep was brought back in the 18th over, having conceded 18 in his two overs in the powerplay, and though he started off his new spell by getting hit for an 84-metre maximum by David, he would conceding just three off the next five balls and deliver the key wicket of a well-set Surya, who was once again timing the ball like a dream and threatened to single-handedly guide Mumbai home.
As big a boost Surya’s wicket was, the job wasn’t finished yet and there was a 20th over to be bowled. And Ellis getting hammered for 15 in the penultimate over, including a monstrous 114-metre hit by David over deep midwicket, made Arshdeep’s job all the trickier with Mumbai needing 16 off the last six.
The cool customer that Arshdeep is though, he did not let the occasion get the better of him. The left-arm seamer managed to get David off strike with a single off the first delivery, bowling a low full toss outside off, before building pressure on Varma with a dot off a well-directed short delivery over middle and leg.
What followed were the standout moments from the high-octane encounter, as Arshdeep managed to smash the middle stump off consecutive deliveries to send Varma and Wadhera back to the dugout, effectively sealing the game in those two magic deliveries with David helplessly watching from the non-striker’s end and perhaps regretting his call to get off strike earlier.
The 24-year-old closed out with a dot and a single to complete a memorable day in office, and was duly hoisted by a couple of his teammates in the celebrations that followed.
Arshdeep’s job, however, would have been a lot more difficult had it not been for a comeback for the ages from the Punjab middle-order with skipper Sam Curran leading the way with a 29-ball 55. The Mumbai attack, after all, was breathing fire at one point and had Punjab on the mat by reducing them to 83/4 at the halfway stage with the 100 only coming up in the 14th over.
Together with Harpreet Bhatia (41 off 28) and Jitesh Sharma (25 off 7), Curran launched a vicious assault in the back-end of the Punjab innings as a staggering 109 runs were collected in the last six overs, turning the game on its head and making the contest that more thrilling.
Despite the destruction that he had unleashed earlier in the day, Curran expressed surprise during the post-match presentation after being adjudged the ‘Player of the Match’ award, which he believed should have gone to one of the bowlers (specifically Arshdeep).
“Don’t think I should be getting the award, with the way our pacers finished the match, Arshdeep and Nathan (Ellis) were incredible and the spinners bowled well,” the Englishman said in a chat after the game.
Their performance on Saturday will no doubt please the Punjab leadership to a great extent, given that they’re firing on all guns despite the absence of a key performer in regular skipper Shikhar Dhawan, who has been one of the standout batters this season.
PBKS, meanwhile, have a five-day break ahead of them and will expect Dhawan to return to action when they take on Lucknow Super Giants and Chennai Super Kings on Friday and Sunday respectively, where they will be backing themselves to claw their way back into the playoff spots.