Harbhajan Singh hit the winning six for Mumbai Indians, roared, and all but thrust his boot towards the Knight Riders’ dugout. It was his way of telling everybody the kind of frustration his team has endured so far and how they have come out fighting.
Mumbai Indians should have won the contest easily. They however made it tougher for themselves, barely managing to reach the modest target of 148 only in the last over at the Wankhede on Wednesday.
The IPL Eliminator went all the way down to the wire even though, at one stage, MI were cruising at 81 for no loss in 7.5 overs. After losing the hard-hitting Aiden Blizzard for 51 (30 balls, 7×4, 2×6), they lost three quick wickets to land in a familiar position.
But James Franklin rallied around for 29 not out (25 balls, 2×4) to star in the team’s rescue act. In the end, the Knights got eliminated and Mumbai Indians squeezed their way into the tournament’s second qualifier to be played in Chennai against Royal Challengers Bangalore on Friday. The winner of that clash will face Chennai Super Kings in the grand finale on Saturday.
The contest became all the more close because of a combination of bad batting, bad umpiring and some serious sledging. It provided for the last-over finish.
Mumbai Indians won the toss and decided it would be better to chase. However, when the Knight Riders began, the Wankhede didn’t seem all that bad for the team batting first. The ball came on to the bat nicely, the weather cooled down and Ryan ten Doeschate, the best batsman of the day, showed everybody the way.
Yet, it was the Kolkata top-order’s suicidal approach that made matters difficult for them early on. Lasith Malinga compensated for what he had missed out in Mumbai Indians’ previous match against Kolkata Knight Riders. On Wednesday night, he unleashed all the firepower to once again return with amazing figures of 19 runs from four overs and a wicket. However, it was the manner in which Munaf Patel, Dhawal Kulkarni and Harbhajan Singh supported Malinga that made the Mumbai Indians attack all the more dangerous.
Patel took three wickets in his four overs, most importantly sending back the very dangerous Jacques Kallis early on in the innings to a brilliant Tendulkar catch at mid-off. The very next over saw Harbhajan roar as loudly as possible, castling Gambhir, as the batsman attempted a clumsy slog sweep.
Kulkarni did his bit too, removing Manoj Tiwary – the second highest scorer for Knight Riders this season – and that was when the visitors got into serious trouble. However, nothing of what they did could collectively match the way Knights were ready to throw their wickets. If not for Doeschate’s perseverance, they wouldn’t even have reached the 100 mark.
Doeschate and gave Malinga the respect he deserved, but Pollard and Kulkarni suffered at the batsman’s hands. The Dutchman became the highlight of the evening for his batting also because of the way he handled Harbhajan, who had come into his own.