KOLKATA: Thursday’s headlines were rightly grabbed by Rohit Sharma as his love affair with Eden Gardens continued.
Amid the celebration and champagne popping, one player’s contribution was not given the recognition it deserved. It was Mitchell McClenaghan’s economic spell at the death with the ball followed by a cameo with the bat that helped set up the victory for Mumbai Indians.
In the last edition of IPL, the New Zealand all-rounder had come up with match-winning performances against Sunrisers Hyderabad as well as in the final against Chennai Super Kings. He had struck together a partnership with Lasith Malinga. With ‘Slinga’ out with injury, McClenaghan can go a long way in filling the Sri Lankan’s absence.
His recent form had not been great. He had a mixed WT20 and went wicketless in the tournament opener against Rising Pune Supergiants.
But on Wednesday, the burly Auckland Ace got the job done. With Andre Russell going great guns and Kolkata Knight Riders looking destined to score over 200, Rohit brought back his most economical bowler for his final over.
With his second delivery, the left-armer bowled Russell who attempted to smash over point but managed a bottom edge. The wicket swung the momentum back. He ended up conceding only 25 runs off four overs.
Hardik Pandya and Jasprit Bumrah then reined in the hosts, conceding just 17 off the final 12 balls, to restrict the Knights to 13 short of the 200-run plateau.
“In the middle overs, we were aiming for 200. After my dismissal, Russell had a decent partnership with the captain. Mumbai bowlers came back strongly. After Russell was out, there were two new batsmen at both ends. It’s not easy for any team to have two new batsmen and go for it,” Manish Pandey said, complementing McClenaghan and Co.
If his bowling exploits were not impressive enough, his pinch-hitting efforts fetched him 20 off eight balls and swung the match Mumbai’s way. An equation of 101 off 60 balls had shrunk to 79 off 49 while he was at the crease. “The idea of promoting McClenghan was Ricky Ponting’s. With leg-spinners bowling, we wanted to utilise his power-hitting,” said Rohit after the match.
The decision to promote the 29-year-old to No 4 was met with bewilderment. Tasked with disrupting the spinners, he treated Piyush Chawla and Kuldeep Yadav with disdain. His innings was short and sweet with his second, third and fourth balls clearing the boundaries.
“It was a master stroke to send in McClenaghan, who got a few sixes to give us some momentum. He turned the match around for us,” said Buttler.
McClenaghan’s role may not be as celebrated as that of his captain, but Wednesday’s unsung hero made sure he will be one to watch out for.