Calcutta: Mumbai Indians just needed to bat out the 20 overs after bundling out Kolkata Knight Riders for a paltry 107 in Qualifier II of IPL X at the Chinnaswamy in Bangalore on Friday.
The Knight Riders did try and put them under some sort of pressure initially, but you need a miracle to successfully defend a total as meagre as 107. Expectedly, Mumbai Indians won the game and at a canter, by six wickets with 33 balls to spare.
Later, at the post-match presentation, Gautam Gambhir too accepted that his team lost just too many wickets upfront. "We discussed after the last game (against Sunrisers Hyderabad in the Eliminator) that this was not a wicket where one could get 160-170 runs. This is a wicket where one can get 130-140. Obviously, we lost too many wickets early on.
"Once you lose five wickets for just 31, it's extremely difficult to come back and post a daunting total," the Knight Riders captain agreed.
Lauding the efforts of Suryakumar Yadav and Ishank Jaggi - the pair that ensured Knight Riders would reach at least the 100-run mark - Gambhir feels the side would have been in with a great chance on reaching a 140-plus total.
"Jaggi and Surya got us to 107. Their partnership was still a decent effort. But 107 was never enough to bowl the opposition out. Had we reached 140-odd, we would have certainly been in the game.
"We know Mumbai Indians are a quality side and we had to be up for it. If you lose five-six wickets in the first six-seven overs, you never recover. We kept losing wickets and could never target any particular bowler.
"And again, a total of 130-140 would have give us something to make a game out of it," the skipper said.
Gambhir, however, is proud of the effort his teammates put in throughout out this edition of IPL. The team took no short cuts, he emphasised.
"I'm really proud of the boys. They put in everything they could. Above all, we took no short cuts. We were professional throughout the competition."
At the end of the day, it again boils down to the missed chances and failing to seize the crucial moments that made the team pay. "Of course, Mumbai Indians were the better side in this game, but if you look back at things, we could have finished in top two.
"We had a couple of opportunities - once against Kings XI Punjab and then against Mumbai Indians. We messed it up in both matches, making similar kinds of mistakes," Gambhir pointed out.
On the other hand, the winning captain Rohit Sharma beamed that Mumbai Indians deserved to be in the summit clash. Having reached the final the hard way keeps the team in good stead, Rohit stressed.
"We've been working hard. So, we don't want to shy away from going into the final the hard way. Moreover, we deserved to be in the final.
"We played a great game today and when you have a performance like that, it gives you ample confidence," he said.
No wonder Rohit was all praise for his bowlers, particularly Karn Sharma (four for 16) and Jasprit Bumrah (three for seven), the ones who wrecked Knight Riders' batting line-up. Even Mitchell Johnson, playing in place of the injured Mitchell McClenaghan, took a couple of wickets.
"Without doubt, bowlers set the game up for us by taking wickets at regular intervals. Karn bowled really well and took us on top. In fact, the hallmark of this team is that we haven't depended on any one individual. It's all about teamwork and we've been focusing on that continuously.
"It's really good to see when individuals take responsibility. It's something we've been talking about."
Rohit had special mention for Bumrah too, as he took the prized scalps of Chris Lynn and Robin Uthappa. "We all know Bumrah is a wicket-taking bowler. Knight Riders have a top-heavy batting, so we wanted to get them out early. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't.
"Sometimes I rely on my gut feeling too. We kept changing bowlers in order to keep the batsmen thinking and make sure they didn't get used to one particular bowler," Rohit explained.
In Sunday's decider in Hyderabad, Mumbai Indians face Rising Pune Supergiant, against whom they lost thrice this season. Captain Rohit does have that in mind.
"I hope we continue in this fashion for one more game. The final is going to be an exciting contest. We don't have a good record against Rising Pune, but we have to focus on what we need to do as a team.
"Hyderabad is a different venue, so we need to assess conditions quickly. It's all about getting used to those conditions and executing our plans," Rohit concluded.
Meanwhile, Man of the Match Karn is happy that his hard work has paid off. "I've worked very hard and I'm really happy that it's paying off. In limited-overs cricket, my role is to take wickets, so I try to bowl slower.
"It was an important game, so my mindset was to take wickets and get them all out. The good thing is I'm helping the team win and that's most important," Karn said.
Like Karn and Bumrah, Johnson too played an important role by removing Piyush Chawla and Nathan Coulter-Nile, both of whom can unleash big shots at the death. Little wonder Johnson too was pleased with his effort.