Hardik Pandya has been an important cog in the Mumbai Indians' (MI) wheel over the years, consistently contributing to the team's cause and producing matchwinning performances with both bat and ball.
The 27-year-old allrounder, who usually comes in to bat in the death overs, has amassed 1349 runs from 80 IPL matches so far at an average of 29.97 and a healthy strike-rate of 159.26. With the ball, Hardik has time and again been called upon by captain Rohit Sharma to break important partnerships and has picked up 42 wickets at an average of 31.26.
3 best knocks by Hardik Pandya against RCB
With the five-time champions all set to open their title defence against Virat Kohli's Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) in the inaugural match of IPL 2021 at Chennai, we take a look at three of the best knocks played by Hardik Pandya against them.
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1) 50 off 42 balls (5 fours, 1 six) at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in IPL 2018
Unfortunately, Hardik Pandya's lone fifty against RCB came in a losing cause. Chasing the home team's 168-run target on a surprisingly bowling-friendly Chinnaswamy wicket, MI's top order came a cropper against the pace troika of Tim Southee, Umesh Yadav and Mohammed Siraj.
Curbing his natural penchant for big hits, Hardik set about the rebuilding job and stitched together a 37-run partnership with Duminy before his 66-run association with brother Krunal Pandya (23 off 19 balls) brought them within sniffing distance of victory.
But with MI needing a gettable 45 runs needed off 4 overs, Southee and Siraj bowled some brilliant yorkers to ensure the Pandya brothers did not get too many boundary-hitting deliveries.
Hardik's fighting knock came to an end in the final over bowled by Southee. With 25 needed off 6 balls, Hardik tried to clear the long-on fence but was brilliantly caught by Kohli as MI went on to lose the match by 14 runs.
You can watch the highlights of Hardik Pandya's hard-fought knock here.
2) 32* off 14 balls (2 fours, 3 sixes) at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in IPL 2019
Even though Hardik Pandya failed to take MI to victory over RCB in IPL 2018, his unbeaten 32-run blitz against Virat Kohli's men at the same stadium proved to be the difference in the next edition's first leg.
After MI's top order had got them off to a a flier, a Yuzvendra Chahal (4/38) inspired collapse saw them lose 4 wickets for the addition of just 5 runs. With the score being 147/7 after 17.1 overs, MI were in danger of not surviving their full quota of 20 overs.
That is when Hardik decided to farm the strike and took it upon himself to finish the innings with a flourish. The right-hander smashed Navdeep Saini for a boundary and a six before dishing out an even harsher treatment to Siraj and smashing two sixes off the last over to ensure Mumbai set a fighting target of 188 runs.
In reply, Jasprit Bumrah's (3/20) perfectly executed death bowling and Lasith Malinga's tight last over helped MI fend off an AB de Villiers special (70* off 41 balls) to eke out a thrilling 6-run win.
Despite the heroics of Bumrah and Malinga, the win wouldn't have been possible without Hardik Pandya's blazing cameo which gave MI a fighting chance. You can watch the highlights of his knock here.
3) 37* off 16 balls (5 fours, 2 sixes) at the Wankhede Stadium in IPL 2019
After his heroics in the first leg, Hardik Pandya once again starred for MI at Wankhede against RCB with a matchwinning cameo in the return leg of IPL 2019's league stage.
AB de Villiers' 75 (51 balls) and Moeen Ali's 50 (32 balls) had helped RCB hobble to a challenging 171/7 despite Malinga's 4/31. MI's top order once again gave them a dream start but with the pitch taking turn, Yuzi Chahal (2/27) and Moeen (2/18) had managed to keep the visitors in the game.
But with 22 runs to get off 2 overs and Hardik Pandya batting at 16 off 10 balls along with the newly arrived Kieron Pollard, MI were still the favorites. Kohli decided to go with the left-arm spin of Pawan Negi and it seemed like a good move when his first ball bounced and turned to beat Hardik's wild slog.
However, Hardik Pandya killed off the game over the next four balls as he clobbered Negi for 2 sixes and 2 fours before taking a single off the last ball to take Mumbai home with five wickets and an over to spare.
You can watch the highlights of Hardik Pandya's whirlwind knock here.