The match started a little over an hour late due to rain, but Mumbai Indians made the most of a second bite at the cherry, overcoming a serious late-innings meltdown to earn a shot at Chennai Super Kings in the final of Pepsi IPL Indian Premier League.
In a fascinating contest of ebbing fortunes, Mumbai managed, just about, to overcome a stirring challenge from Rahul Dravid’s brave Rajasthan Royals, squeaking home by four wickets with one delivery to spare in Qualifier 2 at the Eden Gardens.
Harbhajan Singh, who had played a part in each of the first five dismissals when Rajasthan had opted to bat first, smashed Shane Watson over cover for the winning runs as Mumbai finished on 169 for six in 19.5 overs in response to Rajasthan’s 165 for six, courtesy a late charge by Dishant Yagnik and a forgettable day in office for Lasith Malinga.
With their two lead spinners unavailable, there was a touch of sameness to the Rajasthan attack. Mumbai were running away with it when Kevon Cooper produced the breakthrough, forcing Aditya Tare to chip a slower one to long-on.
Dinesh Karthik batted like a dream while Smith alternated between silken touch and brute power, their partnership of 55 in just 30 deliveries taking Mumbai to within 41 of victory with 35 deliveries left.
If there is one characteristic Rajasthan have portrayed this season, it has been a never-say-die attitude. Most teams would have given up the goat at 125 for two, but Rajasthan kept plugging away.
Sensing nerves in the Mumbai camp, they ate into the middle order. Mumbai lost 4 for 16 in 21 deliveries including Smith for an excellent 62, and the match was in the balance, 25 needed off 15 and the big hitters all gone.
Brad Hodge put Ambati Rayudu down with 15 needed in nine deliveries, and the game turned there. Rayudu was bowled in the last over with six required, but Mumbai scraped over the line.
The Rajasthan innings saw Dravid as the early aggressor, as he picked Mitchell Johnson off for three fours in his first two overs.
Rajasthan were poised to kick on at 44 without loss but the introduction of Harbhajan put a spoke in their wheels. The offspinner bowled Rahane round his legs, then elicited a top edge from Watson that was neatly pouched by Rohit Sharma.
In the next over, Sanju Samson was completely foxed by a slower one from Malinga for Harbhajan to take another very good catch off a steepling skier.
Dravid was forced to keep aggression in check, but Stuart Binny more than made up for it as he took a liking to Pragyan Ojha.
But it was Harbhajan yet again who came in to evict Dravid, Rohit taking a diving catch at mid-wicket. Binny and Cooper fell in the space of three deliveries to Kieron Pollard, and at 108 for 6 in the 16th over, Rajasthan appeared to have sold themselves short.
Yagnik, though, had other ideas. He targeted Malinga before ruining Rishi Dhawan’s figures with a sustained onslaught. Mumbai completely went to pieces as the last three overs yielded 46 and the last from Malinga leaked 18, including a beamer that landed nearly 15 yards wide of the match pitch.
R Kaushik is deputy editor at Wisden India.
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