Continuing their dream run, Mumbai Indians, who topped the league table with 10 wins from 14 games, marched into the final of IPL Season-3 with a 35-run win over last year’s runners-up, Bangalore Royal Challengers, here at DY Patil Sports Stadium. With the victory, Mumbai also clinched a spot in September’s Champions League T20.
The win was set up by unbeaten cameos from Saurabh Tiwary (52) and Kieron Pollard (33) as MI posted 184-5, incidentally the highest total at the ground. Later, Mumbai restricted Bangalore to 149-9, thanks to a thoroughly professional bowling and fielding performance led by Lasith Malinga (2-24), Harbhajan Singh (2-44) and Kieron Pollard (3-17).
Pollard followed his cracking effort with the bat, with a three-wicket haul that included scalps of Robin Uthappa (26), Virat Kohli (9) and Manish Pandey (5). The sluggish nature of the surface made it difficult for batsmen to hit through the line, inspiring Pollard to roll his fingers over the ball. In fact, all three dismissals were thanks to clever variations, including the one that removed Pandey through a fine catch taken inches from the rope by Duminy.
The Uthappa factor...
The dangerous Uthappa seemed to turn the game on its head in the ninth over - taking Harbhajan for two sixes and a four – to put Bangalore’s run-chase back on track, going into the strategic time-out (after nine overs) at 80-2. Incidentally, Mumbai were 74-3 at the same juncture. Uthappa’s brief blitzkrieg ended next over when he holed out to Dhawan off Pollard at deep mid-wicket, leaving the crowd in a state of euphoria. The air was abuzz with the feeling that his wicket was the last nail in the coffin. The next ball saw a mix-up between Dravid (23) and Taylor (30 not out), and the former run-out by Pollard who made a spectacular lunge at the wickets! Suddenly, BRC were reeling at 83-4 after 10 overs.
Harbhajan checks in...
The fact that BRC’s slow bowlers conceded only 60 runs from 11 overs would have left Harbhajan Singh licking his lips. Coming around the wicket to Kevin Pietersen (19), he struck with just his second ball, firing it down leg-side, as he noticed Pietersen stepping down the pitch. The stumping was completed thanks to wonderful glove work by Rayudu.
Tendulkar injures finger
The first ball of the fourth over saw Dravid stand his ground after edging a Zaheer out-swinger to Tendulkar at first slip. TV replays suggested that the MI captain might have grazed the ball, and in the process hurt his fingers. Tendulkar left the field for some first aid, leaving leadership duties to his deputy, Zaheer. “My hand is not great. I split my webbing, got five stitches. I am hoping to recover in time for the final,” a wounded, yet euphoric Tendulkar said after the game.
The duo of Kallis (11) and Dravid had their share of luck before a fast out-swinger by Malinga induced an outside edge from the former in the fourth over. Kallis had earlier survived a miscued pull-shot with Dhawan dropping a catch.
Tiwary, Rayudu, Pollard guide MI to 184-5
Earlier, Mumbai’s innings was evidently divided into three halves – the first was full of anxiety, nervousness, direct hits and over throws, despite which they raced along to 61-2 after 7. But the next 8 overs, bowled by spinners, saw Mumbai gather only 46 runs, at a run-rate of less than six runs per over. However, the burst between overs 15 and 20 saw Mumbai amass 77 runs for a match-winning total. There was a clear difference between pace and spin bowling on the night. For BRC, 9 overs between Kumble, Pietersen and Kohli cost only 60 runs, while the remaining eleven cost 124.
The vivacious crowd that arrived almost four hours before the game due to security concerns exclaimed with joy when Tendulkar chose to bat after winning the toss. The speculations surrounding Tendulkar’s partner ended when Shikhar Dhawan walked out to the middle alongside his skipper. Praveen Kumar, who missed five games on the trot, got the ball to shape away, leaving the batsmen watchful in their shot-making.
Tendulkar falls cheaply...
Having waited patiently for seven balls, Tendulkar clipped Steyn through deep mid-wicket to set the ball rolling for Mumbai. Two balls later, he played a trademark cut shot between backward point and cover-point to leave the capacity crowd in raptures. After the two glorious strokes, the master stretched out to a wide one, only to find Taylor at cover. The silence at the stadium following his departure was deafening.
Abhishek Nayar, who had played just the solitary game prior to the semi-final, was promoted to no. 3 after Tendulkar hailed the southpaw as a ‘big match player’ at the toss. P Kumar missed a direct hit to remove him in the third over and the ball raced away to the boundary, an indication that the rub of the green was going Mumbai’s way. The same over saw Virat drop a sitter at second slip – in yet another indication. However, high stakes got to the players, who scampered around, trying to convert ones to twos, and twos into threes, and in the process Dhawan (12) fell victim to a stupendous piece of fielding from Kohli. MI were left in a tricky situation of 29-2, leaving the onus on Rayudu.
Rayudu responds to the pressure...
Rayudu (40) exemplified his rich vein of confidence when he stepped down the track to caress V Kumar through long-off in the sixth. Rayudu continued the charge in the next over by taking P Kumar for two fours. Despite all the drama at the start, MI went into the strategic timeout at 61-2, thanks to the counterattack led by Rayudu.
Nayar kept the scorecard ticking with deft touches and brisk running. His handy knock of 21 ended when he top-edged a Pietersen ball to Taylor at short fine-leg. The same over saw the end of Duminy’s brief stay at the wicket, when the left-hander looked to maneuver a delivery outside off towards the leg side, only to find Pietersen at short cover.
Spinners slow it down...
The dismissals of Nayar and Duminy meant the overs between 7 and 13, bowled by Kumble and Pietersen, saw MI gather only 30 runs between the two time-outs. Pietersen, usually a part-timer, conceded only 20 from 4 overs.
Tiwary comes to the party...
Mumbai’s innings went through 13.3 overs without a six, leaving the crowd thirsty for fireworks. Saurabh Tiwary (52 not out) answered the call with a monstrous slog-sweep off Kohli. Kumble’s decision to go back to V Kumar in the 16th proved fatal, as Tiwary and Rayudu combined for 17 runs.
Rayudu received a life while on 36, when he skied down a Kumble ball to Kohli at long-off. Luckily for MI, it was a no-ball, and the situation improved next ball, as Rayudu played a reverse-sweep for a boundary off the free hit, and Tiwary ended the over with a sensational strike straight down the ground for six. Rayudu and Tiwary stitched together a stand of 67 from 45 until the latter’s invaluable knock of 35 ended in the 18 over, when he holed out to Kallis at mid-off. Meanwhile, Tiwary brought up his third IPL fifty, off just 31 balls, when he cleared a slower one from Steyn over deep long-on, leaving the bowler in a state of shock.
The Pollard Show...
Pollard walked out to a startling reception, with exactly two and a half overs left, and it was time to unleash the Trinidadian dazzler in him. The penultimate over saw him strike V Kumar for two biggies over long-off, and the last saw him take Steyn for 16, signing off in style. Such is the power in the shoulders of Pollard that even the mis-hits were carrying for sixes. His unbeaten cameo of 33 was power-packed with three sixes and a boundary.
Man-of-the-Match Pollard appreciated the role of the team management. “I want to thank the team for sticking with me. I know my role was to go in and up the run-rate, I think I did that, and then take some wickets,” he said.
Mumbai will now clash with the winner of the second semi-final - between Deccan Chargers and Chennai Super Kings - in the grand finale on Sunday.