It was sheer team effort, as stand-in skipper Harbhajan-led MI made CLT20 history to enter the finals of the tournament here at the Chinnaswamy Stadium today. Mumbai Indians now play Royal Challengers Bangalore in the finals tomorrow at the same venue to take a shot at glory.
Spirited Mumbai Indians moved into their first CLT20 finals by virtue of a 10-run win over Somerset here this evening. Initially, MI batsmen did a commendable job by posting a fighting total of 160-5 in 20 overs on a pitch that was playing low and slow. Thereafter, MI bowlers managed to restrict the opposition from crossing the line, under some inspired captaincy from Harbhajan Singh.
Early on, MI skipper Harbhajan Singh had no hesitation in batting first after winning the toss. Aiden Blizzard got his eye in quickly in the second over from Steve Kirby and smashed him for three boundaries to get going in the knock-out clash. Meanwhile, Sarul Kanwar who was finding things difficult in the middle perished meekly for 2 in the fourth over. Ambati Rayudu, who has had a rough tournament with the willow, walked out to bat next and anchor the innings. As Rayudu kept nudging the ball for ones and twos, Blizzard regularly found the boundaries, and some aggressive batting by the opener brought up MI’s fifty at the end of the sixth over.
Rayudu, however, could not convert his solid start into anything substantial and fell for 19 in the eight over off pacer Adam Dibble. At 62-2, James Franklin made his way to the centre to accompany Blizzard who was getting better and keeping the innings tempo up. Franklin too departed cheaply for 6, after he was trapped by spinner R van der Merwe. In the following over, Blizzard was also sent back to the hut by spinner Murali Kartik but by now he had already scored an impressive 54. With two wickets in back-to-back overs, MI was in a spot of bother at 93-4 after 13.
With 8 overs to go, it was up to Kieron Pollard to take MI to a respectable score. Big hitting Pollard kept pushing MI’s score with some lusty blows, but before he could do substantial damage, opposition skipper Alfonso Thomas shattered his stumps for 24 in the seventeenth over when MI’s score read 122-5. It was now on the young shoulders of debutant S K Yadav and the mercurial R Satish to take MI past 150.
The pair squeezed out 10 runs from the 18th over, 20 from the 19th over (3 fours and a six) and 8 runs of the last over to take MI’s score to 160-5 in their quota of 20 overs. Both batsmen remained not out, with Satish scoring 25 and Yadav 23.
Somerset got off to a horrible start, as their in-form opener Peter Trego was cleaned-up by a Lasith Malinga special for a duck in the very first over. Pinch-hitter R van der Merwe looked to continue his rich form by smashing two boundaries, but before he could pose any threat to MI, Malinga uprooted his stumps with another beauty. This left Somerset in a pickle at 17-2 at the end of the third over.
With experienced Craig Kieswetter and James Hildreth at the wicket, the English side still made a fight to recover and stay on course. The duo assessed the situation beautifully and with some smart and less risky strokes kept their scoreboard ticking. The pair was also quick to pounce on anything loose from the bowlers and executed their game-plan to a nicety, bringing up their team’s fifty in the eight over. A little later, they also reached their 50-run stand in the tenth over. This timely partnership brought Somerset right back into the game. Meanwhile, MI needed a breakthrough and Harbhajan Singh took the onus on himself to bowl the crucial fourteenth over, and bowled Hildreth out for 39. Somerset now needed 58 from 6 overs with 7 wickets in the bank.
Kieswetter was looking ominous at one end, as he reached his half-century in 41 balls. In the 17th over, he hammered 10 runs from 2 balls off Abu Nechim and further reduced the asking rate. Suddenly, Somerset was sneaking ahead, as they only needed 29 of the last 3. After a relatively frugal 18th over by Malinga, Harbhajan Singh made an inspiring bowling change by introducing Franklin to bowl the penultimate over. Franklin responded in fine fashion by picking up two crucial wickets of J Butler (19) and Kieswetter (62) and gave away only 7 runs to put MI on top.
At this stage, Somerset required 15 from Malinga’s over to make the finals. As always, Malinga held his nerve, conceded just 4 runs and picked up 2 more wickets. In the end, MI won the match by 10 runs. Malinga was rightfully chosen the Man of the Match for his figures of 4-0-20-4.
Mumbai Indians now play RCB in the finals tomorrow here at the MA Chidambaram Stadium.