Bowlers barged tellingly into what was to be a battle between two good batting sides as Mumbai Indians won the world’s richest T20 league for the first time on Sunday. Playing their second final, Rohit Sharma & Co. tamed Chennai Super Kings, the team that had denied them three years ago, with a 23-run victory at a packed Eden Gardens.
It was the lusty hitting by Kieron Pollard that had given Mumbai a competitive total to defend. The West Indian, who sent the last two deliveries of the innings soaring for sixes, remained unbeaten on a 32-ball 60 as Mumbai reached 148 for 9. Two-time champions Super Kings never quite recovered from early jolts and finished on 125 for 9.
Skipper MS Dhoni remained unbeaten on a 45-ball 63 that had three fours and three sixes. But all that was only stats in the end.
In fact, early wickets had seriously set back both lineups. If the Super Kings forced their opponents to recover from 16 for three in the fourth over, Mumbai did one better, knocking down two in the very first over of the chase and then reducing the five-time finalists to three for three in the second and then 39 for 6 in the eighth.
Lasith Malinga, not quite himself in Season Six, found his form when it really mattered for Mumbai. Knocking off the dangerous Mike Hussey, the top run-getter of the tournament, with a signature toe-cruncher, the Sri Lankan ‘Slinger’ sent back Suresh Raina with a rising ball that the southpaw turned straight to square-leg. S Badrinath kept away another yorker to deny a first-over hat-trick but the tone had been set. Badrinath didn’t linger long, chasing Mitchel Johnson into the gloves of Dinesh Karthik.
Rishi Dhawan came on for one over to break the fledgling fourth-wicket partnership by gobbling up Bravo. Then, Harbhajan Singh, who too has found form late in the tournament, soon got into the act to pick up a couple of wickets.
Doni refused to give in but when, with 50 needed off the last two overs, he refused singles to shield No.11 Mohit Sharma, the writing was on the wall.
Earlier, winning a good toss on a wicket that lends itself nicely to slow bowlers in the second session, Mumbai saw that advantage wrested away in the first few overs as the CSK new-ball bowlers made the most of the early movement the wicket accorded.
Mohit Sharma, who has certainly held his own among the big names this season, had one nipping back to trap the dangerous Dwayne Smith in the very first over. Albie Morkel then yorked the in-form Aditya Tare with his first ball of the match and then had Rohit Sharma playing early and into his follow-through in his second over.
Mumbai were dangerously pegged back. Karthik and Ambati Rayudu added 36 for the fourth wicket at just under six-an-over but it was after the former left that new-man Kieron Pollard pushed things.