Malinga had left Mumbai mid-way to participate in Sri Lanka's domestic competition. His absence was not felt initially, as Alzarri Joseph ran through Sunrisers Hyderabad with a record 6-12 on debut. It was a terrific spell, but it was evident over the next two matches that Mumbai still needed Malinga when he returned.
The first signs of danger came against Kings XI Punjab in Mumbai, when they conceded 66 runs in the last five overs. Joseph bowled just two overs, conceding 22 runs.
Captain Kieron Pollard wouldn't trust him for the death overs, instead handing it to Hardik Pandya who ended up conceding 57 runs in his four overs.
The death overs leakage nearly cost them the game, but Pollard bailed them out with a stunning innings. The result made Mumbai give Joseph an extended, but this time it proved too costly as Rajasthan Royals made them pay.
Chasing 188, Rajasthan, led by Jos Buttler's brilliance, smashed 85 runs in the last 8.3 overs to run away with the game. Joseph conceded 53 runs from three overs, including 28 in a single over to Buttler.
Bumrah was economical, but teams were happy to play him out and target the Pandyas and Benrendorffs.
Mumbai learned their lesson soon, and brought back Malinga to stop the end-overs rut. Before leaving for Sri Lanka, he had picked up 3 for 34 against Chennai Super Kings, and just continued from where he left as he picked up 4 for 31 against RCB - a spell that made the ultimate difference in the end.
Mumbai conceded just 35 runs in the last four overs thanks to the Malinga-Bumrah partnership, despite AB de Villiers getting into the groove. The South African had started steadily, scoring only 13 runs from his first 17 balls, but was getting into fifth gear at the perfect time, crossing his half-century off 41 balls.
Moeen Ali was striking even better, reaching 50 off 31 balls. Yet, Malinga ensured Bangalore wouldn't run away with the game and kept them to 171 with his last two overs conceding just 17. This, despite de Villiers taking him for two sixes. He got Moeen and Marcus Stoinis in the 18th over, and followed it up with two more wickets in the last as RCB lost momentum.
What also cost RCB big was a small but major moment in the game in the second ball of the last over. De Villiers, who had tonked Malinga for a six the previous ball, had hit the ball to long on and called for two. Akshdeep Nath should have run blindly even if it meant sacrificing his wicket, but he stood still, resulting in de Villiers being run out by a brilliant throw from the deep.
De Villiers is perhaps the one batsman who you would trust to target Malinga. The duel between them reads like this: 61 balls, 124 runs, 0 dismissals. De Villiers had already hit him for three sixes in as many overs in this game, and would have fancied his chances for more. Yet, lack of game awareness from Akshdeep meant de Villiers was denied a chance of facing Malinga for four more balls.
In a tense chase on a pitch that became increasingly difficult to bat on, the minor moments hurt Bangalore as much as Malinga did.
First Published: April 16, 2019, 6:30 AM IST