Malinga's cameo outdoes Hussey's hard work
It is not raining, it is absolutely pouring for MS Dhoni. On a night that everything was going to script for Dhoni's side - the toss was won on a slow track, Michael Hussey had scored 81 to set up a more-than-competitive total, the slower bowlers had choked the Mumbai Indians innings off, Dhoni had himself pulled off two good stumpings and a dodgy catch - he missed a fairly simple chance to stump Lasith Malinga. Malinga had come in to bat with 53 required in 4.4 overs with three wickets in hand, but with nothing to lose he swung hard. When he connected clean he hit sixes, when he edged he got fours, when he missed he got byes. With 37 off 18, he completed an improbable win with one ball to go.
It was a classical Twenty20 case of four overs outweighing the hard work done over 36 overs. It all began with the profusely sweating Hussey. He had lost four kilos over September 16 and 17 in Colombo when scoring the century that earned him the third of three Man-of-the-Match awards in the three-Test series. A week later, in similar humid conditions but a completely different format, he seemed like he had never stopped playing Indian leagues on slow and low pitches.
Seamlessly he went from playing dabs and nudges for ones and twos to pulling out the big hits, helping Chennai double their 12-over score of 79. He even got the better of Malinga, scoring 13 off the bowler's third over, but Malinga came back well to concede just eight of his last. Little did Malinga know then that he would be doing similar things with the bat at a similar stage of the next innings.
Mumbai's openers knew a majority of their scoring would have to be done against the hard ball, and came out swinging accordingly. However, the approach was not going to work against the spinners. Hussey played 22 dots in his innings of 81; Aiden Blizzard, though he hit attractive shots, failed to score off ten balls in his 28. R Ashwin came on to accentuate the dots. Almost inevitably he got Jacobs stumped down the leg side. Dhoni's no-reverse-follow-through stumping worked a treat here.
Dhoni introduced Raina before the specialist spinner, Shadab Jakati, and was rewarded with another stumping to send T Suman back. That followed a low catch to dismiss Ambati Rayudu, a piece of action that didn't meet the scrutiny it deserved. Once again it was all down to Pollard, who flattered, promised, and as has so often happened, deceived by top-edging a slower one from Albie Morkel. Then came Malinga.
He began with a pulled four off Morkel, but his innings reached a crescendo when he hit successive deliveries from Jakati for near-parallel straight sixes into both dugouts. Chennai were not panicking quite yet. Later in the over Malinga ran past a flat one from Jakati. This time Dhoni had enough time to collect it cleanly, but his instinctive no-reverse-follow-through method caused the ball to spill. He rarely misses those. He did today with 31 still required off three overs.
In the next over Malinga edged a Bollinger yorker fine for four. The curse of the batsmen with nothing to lose was working. Bollinger came back with four slower deliveries that went for just one run. Morkel tried slower balls too, but bowled two of them wide. The one quick one he bowled Malinga sent for another flat six over long-off. Still at 13 required off seven, Chennai were the favourites.
Morkel finished his night deceiving Malinga with a slower ball. The ball bounced halfway through to Dhoni, took a vicious bad bounce towards his face, and went for two byes. The second delivery of the last over Malinga absolutely slapped with no idea where he was hitting. It went flying over point for four, and Mumbai were now the favourites with six required off four. Captain Harbhajan Singh provided the finishing touches with a clipped four off a slower one and a single off the fifth ball of the over.
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo