There is always a lot of anticipation if you are a Mumbai fan going into a game against Delhi. While the rivalry today is not as intense as it was back in the '80s, it does have a presence even today, especially in the Ranji Trophy. The IPL is slightly different, with few local players lining up on either side, but for ardent Mumbai fans, this is always a must win game.
The excitement leading up to the game this season, however, was not very high, even if there was a sense of anticipation for the first game of the season - mainly due to the relatively weak squad Delhi have assembled this season. Even so, the game was a bit of an anti-climax with Mumbai easily defeating Delhi to hand them one of their worst defeats in the IPL. On the form of this game, I expect Delhi to struggle to remain competitive against similarly tough opposition.
The pitch looked like it had a bit of movement in it, though it was puzzling why Delhi did not go for a green top given that they have eight fast/medium fast bowling options in their squad. Maybe they were worried about the damage Malinga could have caused on such a pitch. As it turned out, they need not have bothered as Malinga absolutely flattened the Delhi batting with unplayable yorker after yorker. Indeed, it was only at the very end that he even needed a fielder to help him get a wicket. Five for thirteen, a great performance. No wonder he is loved so much in Mumbai.
Delhi were also not helped by some indecisive running, and Sehwag's run-out due to a brilliant direct hit by Tendulkar really knocked the stuffing out of them, as the rest of the batsmen hardly ever put up a fight. Naman Ojha and Venugopal Rao managed a brief recovery, but they were never allowed to run away with it with some good bowling by Murtuza accounting for Ojha, before Malinga came back to flatten the tail.
A target of 96 was never really going to threaten Mumbai. Delhi's bowlers worked up a lovely pace in response, with Ashok Dinda and Umesh Yadav surprising everyone by regularly touching the 140 mark. Even Irfan Pathan managed to get a smooth action going. Davy Jacobs came in with a lot of expectations at the top of the order, but he was beaten by a lovely ball from Morne Morkel who got one to nip away ever so slightly.
The small target afforded Mumbai the luxury of starting slowly. Tendulkar started scratchily with a few edges and a dropped chance at widish first slip. Though Rayadu also perished early, being run-out by a brilliant bit of fielding by Roelof van der Merwe, Tendulkar and Rohit Sharma ensured that there would be no hiccups in the chase. Rohit was very lucky early on, when umpire Saheba adjudged him not out to an Irfan Pathan delivery that looked like it pitched on, hit him in front of and was hitting the leg stump. However, he soon managed to get into the groove, and much as Tendulkar later remarked, he showed his talent by playing some lovely shots, including three fours in an over against Morkel. Tendulkar managed to step up the pace late on as well, and he even hit a six against van der Merwe. Sign of his approach to this season after a largely risk free batting performance last season?
So, while the victory does feel great, and Mumbai look like strong contenders for the title this season, the effects of a longish season of cricket need to be seen, even if that is true for all teams. Tougher opposition awaits, with Royal Challengers Bangalore the next hurdle. Of the two groups, Mumbai are in the easier one, with Delhi and Kings XI Punjab looking like whipping boys of the group, and they really should finish in the top two and make the newly designed play-offs at the semi-final stage.
Man of the match: Lasith Malinga (3.4-1-13-5)
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