Unlikely semi-finalists look to add to their stories
Match factsMumbai Indians v Somerset, October 8, Chennai
Start time 2000 (1430 GMT)
This is the less glamorous of the semi-finals by a country mile. Barring a few names, you are left with either journeymen or cricketers before or after their prime. The pitch will be slow and low. If the league games were any indication, there will be no atmosphere at the ground because the home team is not playing. Even the cheerleaders' legs will be covered. That, though, is not the story here. The story is the odds these two sides have beaten to come so far.
Mumbai Indians haven't exactly endeared themselves to the watching public. When faced with a spate of injuries, they played an extra overseas player as opposed to picking an unknown name from among thousands of cricketers in Mumbai, the city they claim to represent, or the tens from the Mumbai Ranji team. Moreover, one of their "injured" players has been scoring runs in Under-22 matches in Mumbai.
Loved by the public or not, it should not be forgotten that a team that struggled to put an XI on the field has made it to the semi-finals. It can also be argued MI have hardly gained form all this. Their extra overseas player, Andrew Symonds, was clearly not expecting a call-up, has not been in shape, and has yet to make any impact in the tournament. Even after the start of the tournament, they lost opener Davy Jacobs. Yet they have refused to go away. They have bowled a side out for 98, and they have chased two targets through lower-order work, mainly from Lasith Malinga, who has nearly doubled his T20 runs aggregate.
If Somerset had an advantage over MI in that they had played as a team through a long home season, they had more obstacles. Jetlagged and nursing two heartbreaks from the two limited-overs finals back home in England, they had to go through the qualifying phase, not being, of course, from one of the three countries that co-own the Champions League. Two of their big T20 players were then picked for England to play against West Indies. Yet they kept winning, once through a third-choice keeper, once through the hefty hitter who never realised his potential at international level, once through a feisty South African, once through the journeyman South African captain. Along the way they have warmed people to the tournament, not by screaming for attention ala Trinidad & Tobago two years ago, but gently nudging people to watch them.
Come Saturday, another chapter will be added to one of the stories.
Watch out for …
MI might have lost their last game in Chennai, but there was a moment in that game that should stand out: when Lasith Malinga took the dead pitch out of the equation, dismissing Simon Katich with a slower yorker. It will be an interesting contest because the batsmen in Chennai have realised that a majority of the scoring has to be done against the new ball, and the new ball will be with one Malinga.
Murali Kartik is Somerset's local man, and was expected to be their big performer, especially given the slow pitches at two of the three venues. Kartik has been steady, with his economy-rate 6.63, but he will be disappointed with the wicket count that is stuck at three. This is as good a time as any to correct that statistic.
The injured MI player who has been scoring runs in Under-22 matches has now been welcomed back, in turn ending MI's permission to play five overseas players. Welcome back, Suryakumar Yadav. There was another injury scare when Pollard injured his hand during training on the eve of the match, but Harbhajan said he was fine and would play.
Somerset brought in Adam Dibble for George Dockrell for their last game, in Bangalore, but on the slower pitch they might want to go back to left-arm spin over right-arm medium pace.
Stats and trivia
- Somerset captain Alfonso Thomas has bowled nine maidens in T20 cricket, which is one behind the all-time leader Praveen Kumar. Surprisingly Malinga has bowled only five.
- Pollard has hit 144 sixes in T20 cricket, but he is fourth on the six-hitters' list. David Hussey sits at the top with 167, followed by Ross Taylor with 164. Chris Gayle is just ahead of Pollard with 147 sixes.
"I think we've to just adjust on the day. I mean we don't quite know how the pitch is going to play until we arrive and see how the first five or six deliveries behave. It's going to be strange, because we've played two games and we'll adapt pretty well, I think."
Shaun Pollock doesn't know what to expect but is positive
"There is room for improvement, and we don't want to peak too early. I think our fielding can sharpen up a bit more. We are certainly hitting the straps now. Nobody gave us a chance and we did well and that shows the character of this team."
Alfonso Thomas suggests his side is yet to peak
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo