Ahead of the clash between the second and the third-placed teams just past the half-way stage, Delhi Capitals coach Ricky Ponting wasn’t too concerned of his team’s record at home in this edition of the IPL. Despite the earlier losses at home, Ponting was confident that the Capitals have had enough game time at Feroz Shah Kotla to know what will work for them on the sluggish pitches that has been on offer. He felt that Mumbai Indians – who had played two back-to-back matches on batting-friendly wickets at the Wankhede stadium ahead of the Thursday game – would find it more difficult on the Kotla pitch.

Mumbai Indians were indeed troubled by the spinners. After a good start following their decision to bat first, the visitors slipped to 74 for 3 in the 10th over. But had the Capitals really adjusted to the pitch? And did they get the combination right? The answers for that followed in the second half of the first innings and continued into the second innings, with the result being a third home loss in four games for the Delhi-based team.

The Capitals employed spin only after the powerplay, using Amit Mishra and Axar Patel in tandem for six overs. Despite a solid start from the Mumbai Indians, with the openers registering their third successive half-century stand, the Capitals managed check the opposition’s progress through quick wickets thanks to the spinners. But the Capitals didn’t have other spin options outside Mishra and Axar in this game – with Mishra not bowling his full quota. In the meantime Suryakumar Yadav and Krunal Pandya got together and built a partnership, negotiating the 3.1 overs of spin bowled at them.

Mishra wasn’t given a fourth over considering the Indian batsmen in the opposition’s middle order who are adept at playing spin, especially the Pandya brothers, reasoned Pravin Amre after the game. The move to not use Mishra’s final over while reintroducing Rabada before the death overs was done in a bid to pick up wickets. But it didn’t quite work despite their key paceman managing to dismiss Suryakumar. Keemo Paul bowled the 18th over, an over that Hardik Pandya used as a launch pad for the death overs push, with his 15-ball 32 helping Mumbai Indians score 50 off the last three overs to finish with 168.

“We have to give credit to the way the Mumbai Indians batted. The last four overs they got 58 runs. Hardik Pandya’s innings was very crucial – 15 balls, 32 runs – that really got the runs on the board. We felt like this was a 150 pitch and I think that extra cushion they got – 18 runs – that made the difference, and put the pressure (on us). After 10 overs it was chasing 10 runs per over. It was not that easy a task considering the Kotla wicket,” said Amre, who’s part of the Capitals support staff.

Krunal, whose 26-ball 37 served as a pillar for Mumbai Indians’ innings, said they finished with more than what they were aiming for. “While batting it was a very tricky wicket. We were not aiming for 170, we were aiming around 145, (which we thought) was a good total on this wicket. But the way Hardik batted, scoring at a strike rate of more than 200, it changed the momentum for us and I guess we got 20-30 more.”

“When Surya and me were batting, we weren’t thinking of getting nine or ten runs an over. We were just trying to get those four-five crucial overs where we can set a good platform for Hardik and [Kieron] Pollard, and if we are set we can also carry on. So it was a crucial partnership in that particular moment,” Krunal said about his partnership with Suryakumar.

With the ball Mumbai Indians had plenty of spin options and the knowledge of how the pitch was playing, and put that to good use. As many as 10 of their first 13 overs were bowled by spinners, and in doing they so sucked the life out of the Capitals’ batting order, while still holding three overs of their trump card Jasprit Bumrah and three of Lasith Malinga, with other pace options also available.

Three wickets for Rahul Chahar, one for Krunal, and Jayant Yadav holding up one end were sufficient proof that the Capitals missed a trick with their combination. The capitals used seven overs of spin to account for two Mumbai Indians’ wickets, at a economy of five an over. Mumbai Indians spinners, meanwhile, had a combined economy of 5.1, with the additional number of overs and the additional wickets compared to the Capitals making a big difference in the outcome of the game even though the hosts had four Indians among their top-five.

“He controlled the game in the first 10 overs and picked up the wickets of the top batsmen, which was very important,” said Amre of Chahar’s performance while he also acknowledged Mumbai Indians’ strategy worked well for the visitors. “(The spinners) bowled in the powerplay. That gave them the extra cushion to use their experienced bowlers later on. The middle overs really cost us (with the bat) and that’s the are we have to really work on. Playing the spinners’ overs well will be very important. Our Indian middle order batsmen have to rise up and deliver.”

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