Bangalore: Chennai Super Kings seem to thrive in times of difficulty. At one point in this season, they were hanging by a thread to stay alive and now they`re just two wins away from a third straight title. They didn`t flinch after losing two wickets in two balls in the second over, they didn`t allow a few quick wickets in the latter half of their innings to affect the tempo built by an impressive counterattack. Instead, they took the fightback to a higher level, led by their captain MS Dhoni, whose blistering assault left Mumbai Indians scarred on their way out of the competition. Super Kings` determination and tenacity proved too much for Mumbai Indians, a promising campaign ending in disappointment.
Asked to bat on one of the most productive tracks this season, Michael Hussey and S Badrinath rode on some fortune to help their team recover from trouble and Dhoni then assumed that attacking avatar that had made him a sensation when he hit the international scene. The efforts of those three, together with Dwayne Bravo`s late surge boosted Super Kings just as Mumbai Indians dropped their guard with the ball. Only Dwayne Smith`s early attack in the chase gave them some hope, but that didn`t last long.
Some late swing played a hand in Dhawal Kulkarni`s two early strikes and Harbhajan Singh was miserly with the new ball, but Hussey and Badrinath took the challenge head on. Both were initially fortunate to find boundaries off edges with the seamers still finding some movement. But they also middled a few, and found the gaps consistently despite the field being pushed back after the Powerplay. Both drove well, Badrinath cracking Kulkarni past mid-off and Hussey creaming Lasith Malinga through extra cover. When Harbhajan brought his medium-pacers on - his ploy to shuffle the bowling backfired - Super Kings ensured the flow remained unaffected. Kieron Pollard was pulled for two fours in an over, the 10th of the innings, after the first timeout - the cue, presumably, for Super Kings to step up further.
Harbhajan was himself smashed for two sixes before Hussey took RP Singh for two boundaries. The first four overs after the timeout yielded 47. Hussey, Badrinath and Ravindra Jadeja, however, fell in a space of 11 deliveries, but the last eight overs of the innings were to produce 105 runs.
The man largely responsible for that was Dhoni, who flicked his first ball for four over midwicket. Though he has come to exercise far more restraint in his batting, the approach today betrayed no signs of that recent tendency to accumulate steadily before opening up. To his advantage, Mumbai Indians doled out a spate of length balls that he wasn`t willing to spare. James Franklin was dispatched over long-on for the biggest six of this tournament, Kulkarni was thrashed down the ground and past cover, and he even had time to make room and cart RP over extra cover.
The stand-out shot was his favourite whiplash, imparting tremendous force against a length ball from Malinga that found itself in the deep-midwicket stand. Bravo, in that penultimate over, launched Malinga - who bowled his most expensive spell of this season - over midwicket and extra cover before finishing off with two sixes off Kulkarni. One of them was battered flat over wide long-off, the power and disdain behind the shot summing up the domination of bat over ball in those late overs.
Some of that contempt for the bowling was also on display in Smith`s early ambush of Ben Hilfenhaus - the same bowler who was taken for 14 off the last three balls by Smith in Mumbai Indians` thrilling win in an earlier meeting. He used his wrists well, pulled, flicked, swept and found the boundary with ease in a quick opening stand of 47.
But Shadab Jakati, brought in for this game in place of seamer Yo Mahesh, bowled with discipline at the other end. He bowled a tight line, and his fielders backed him up well. Some superb fielding by Jadeja at point caused a mix-up between Smith and Tendulkar, who was run out, and Smith soon followed, spooning a catch in the same region. Albie Morkel, who got some away movement, had Dinesh Karthik and Rohit Sharma nicking to the keeper, and Ambati Rayudu fell slog-sweeping against R Ashwin. When Franklin was dismissed in the 14th over with 84 still to get, the task was even beyond Pollard. Mumbai Indians` depth in batting promised a close fight, but the pressure of a big chase in a must-win game proved too big to overcome.
BDST: 0205HRS, May 24, 2012
Edited by: Sekander ALi, Head of Sports
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