Malinga's crushing burst, Dhoni's batting smarts
The send-off and the welcome
Given the length of Mumbai's injury roster, Lasith Malinga was always going to be their talisman in this tournament. In a three-ball burst in his second over, he showed why. First came a scud missile masquerading as a reverse-swinging yorker, and M Vijay successfully got his bat and toes out of harm's way to lose middle and leg stump. Enter Suresh Raina, itching to have a go on featherbeds after being tormented endlessly on bouncy tracks in England. However, the bouncer threat has been tattooed so firmly into his mind that he always hangs back for that extra split second. Malinga welcomed him with another yorker, and Raina dug it out with a late, flailing jab that broke his bat in two. A replacement bat came out, Raina took guard again, and this time it was the bouncer. The bounce wasn't England-esque though, and it thudded sickeningly into Raina's arm. Broken stumps, a broken bat and nearly a broken elbow - Malinga at his menacing best. Chennai wouldn't have known that he had more carnage saved for later in the day.
The Dhoni specials
MS Dhoni's free-style batting technique produces some of the most original shots ever. He invented two of them towards the end of Chennai's innings. In the 19th over, Abu Nechim pushed a length ball a couple of feet wide of off stump to negate Dhoni's straight-hitting. No luck. Dhoni lunged as far as he could and scooped the ball over extra-cover with a bottom-handed carve so fierce that he over-balanced even as he played the shot and nearly fell over. He had more in store for the next over. Malinga sent down a searing yorker that was heading towards Dhoni's toes, but the captain smartly moved the front foot away, opened up the leg side and swung a circular arc of fury that sent the ball hurtling through square leg.
The Tendulkar moment
The crowd was distinctly Chennai-biased, but Sachin Tendulkar's appearance on the big screen met with the loudest cheer (apart from when the DJ played a song from a Rajnikanth movie). But there was one moment that had Tendulkar himself applauding. In the fourth over of the chase, Doug Bollinger delivered a short ball that was angled into Aiden Blizzard's body even as he charged out of the crease. Blizzard was in no position to play a shot, but went through with a full-blooded pull. He was so late on the shot that he made contact - good contact at that - at the start of his bat swing, and the ball took off to land over the point boundary for the innings' first six. Chepauk went silent, and the 'greatest batsmen in the game' clapped in glee for one of the most bizarre mishits of the day. Cricket breaks new ground every day.
The sea of yellow
Over the years, the Chennai franchise's on-field success has been bolstered by a loyal local fan base, but today there were three stands that remained completely vacant while the rest of the MA Chidambaram Stadium filled up impressively. Was it a case of pricing gone wrong? Or was it an indication that people were not interested in the tournament? Neither. Apparently, the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association had decided not to use stands G, H and I for the tournament, and had made alternate plans for fans who had already purchased tickets for them. That the empty stands - all of which were renovated in the lead-up to the World Cup - consisted of yellow seats did not help them merge with the rest of the ground. Surprisingly, despite the absence of Sachin Tendulkar on the field, a good number of Mumbai fans had turned up with their own merchandise to create spirited blue breaks in the sea of yellow.
The marked man
Raina's body was in the firing line more than once today. After the Malinga bumper that softened him, he struggled through to 18 off 17 balls. He later came on to edge out two wickets with canny offbreaks, but the ball kept following him in the field. In the sixth over of the chase, an Aiden Blizzard shot was fielded at midwicket and the fielder hurled the ball at the stumps at the non-striker's end and missed. Raina at cover was backing up, but the ball bounced up awkwardly and thudded painfully into his chin. Raina must have been still smarting when he lunged to field a fierce Malinga drive that escaped his hands and hit him in the soft spot. Ouch to the power of three.
Nitin Sundar is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo