Rising to the occasion in a near desperate situation at the MA Chidambaram stadium this evening, toe-breaker Lasith Malinga and spinner-turned-batsman Harbhajan Singh extracted victory from the jaws of defeat in a role reversal of a lifetime. Malinga walked in when MI was down to the wire against the defending champs Chennai Super Kings and changed the face of the game with two lusty blows early on in his innings of 37 not out. A determined Bhajji supported his valiant attempt from the other end with his own brand of aggressive batting, as the duo sealed the match in MI’s favour. The three-wicket victory now gives MI the crucial two points going ahead in the tournament.
Early on, home skipper MS Dhoni won the toss and had no hesitation in batting first on a wicket that looked a touch tricky. CSK openers Murali Vijay and the in-form batsman Michael Hussey were initially watchful of some disciplined bowling from MI. In fact, a Malinga special in the 5th over uprooted Vijay’s (8) stump and gave a good breakthrough to MI. With 28 runs on the board, Suresh Raina walked to the middle and manoeuvred the ball around the field to pinch ones and twos along with his partner. At the 9th over, Chennai was well placed at 63-1 and both batsmen looked poised to accelerate the scoring. However, Kieron Pollard brought back the visitors into the game with a somewhat lucky stumping of Raina for 18. After 10 overs, CSK was 67-2.
S Badrinath was the next man in and played around Hussey who was looking very comfortable at the crease. The pair kept the scoreboard ticking with some smart batting. Hussey was quick to pounce on anything loose and registered yet another impressive T20 half-century. A little later, in an attempt to clear the boundary, Badrinath holed out to long-off for 16.
Meanwhile, Hussey went on rampage hitting a flurry of boundaries to give his team the required impetus. Hussey’s brilliant knock came to an end in the 19th over for 81 off 57 when he tried to loft pacer Abu Nechim over long-off. In the end, a breezy innings of 22 off 13 from Dhoni took CSK’s total to an above par 158-4 in their allotted 20 overs. For MI, Nechim picked up 2 wickets, while Malinga and Pollard grabbed one apiece.
In pursuit of a stiff target, MI openers Aiden Blizzard and David Jacobs got off to a decent start by hammering boundaries with real purpose. After the first 4 overs, the visitors were 34 without a loss and were well on course to chase down the total. However, the departure of Jacobs (18) and Blizzard (28) in quick succession put MI on the back foot. At the end of 7 overs, MI was 52-2.
The two new batsmen at the crease, T Suman and Ambati Rayudu, needed to both stabilize the innings and keep up with the run-rate. However, the pair did not come to terms with the pressure created by the opposition and fell rather cheaply in the 8th and 9th over, respectively. Andrew Symonds walked in with huge expectations at this stage, but he was soon undone by some clever bowling by Dwayne Bravo for 3. At the half-way mark, MI had lost half its side and was reeling at 67-5, with 93 needed from 60.
Obviously, MI’s hopes were strongly pinned on a Pollard miracle at this stage. R Satish showed some intent with a mighty six and a cheeky four at this stage but fell prey to a nicely disguised carrom-ball from R Ashwin for 14. With 58 needed from the last 5 overs, Pollard started off the 16th over with a bang, by dismissing a short ball from Albie Morkel. However, he too fell in the same over and could not get his team home. With Pollard’s dismissal MI’s hopes nearly evaporated.
But as they say, ‘it’s not over until it’s over’. Malinga with two meaty blows in the 17th over brought MI right back into the game. The equation now was very much gettable for MI was 32 from 18 deliveries. As Malinga kept going hammer and tongs, skipper Harbhajan Singh rotated the strike deftly. In the end, it all came down to the last over with MI needing 11. The duo finished the match in grand style with a ball to spare. Malinga remained not out on 37, while the gritty turbanator scored 19 not out and walked away with the winning run.
Malinga was rightly chosen as the man of the match for his miraculous efforts with the bat. On his teammate’s achievement, the skipper said, “Malinga played the innings of his life." In a post match interview, team owner Mrs. Nita Ambani said, “I have great faith in my team. I am here to support the boys and I am confident that they would do well.”
The Mumbai Indians next play Trinidad & Tobago on September 26 at the Chinnaswamy stadium in Bangalore.