Mumbai Indians win big moments and the semi-final
Mumbai Indians refuse to go away. Missing half their side, struggling to put an XI on the field, courting controversy every step of the way, they have still managed to win most of the big moments they have encountered to make it to the final of the Champions League.
MI won all the decisive moments of the night. They ran away at the top through Aiden Blizzard's 54 off 39. They scored 52 off their last five, after the middle overs slowed them down, through a 43-run stand off 22 between the unheralded R Sathish and Suryakumar Yadav. Lasith Malinga then took out Somerset's two biggest batsmen of the tournament with devilish yorkers and changes of pace. And when Craig Kieswetter threatened to mastermind a cool chase, with the MI fielders blundering all around him, Malinga and James Franklin defended - just as coolly - 28 runs in the last three overs.
MI chose a fine time to put up their best batting effort of the tournament. On a pitch that was slow but much better than the mud-wrestling arena it had been in the earlier stages of the tournament, Blizzard did what their opponents have been doing: capitalise with the hard new ball. He enjoyed the pace on it, and tried to make use of all quick length balls. Adam Dibble came on and took the pace off with his cutters, but Blizzard was quick to spot whenever he bowled quick. Off the 20 runs that Dibble conceded in his four overs, Blizzard took 10 in two hits, both off quick and full deliveries. One of his other sixes came off a free hit, but that was about all the luck he enjoyed.
Somerset's left-arm spinners, though, pulled things back with the wickets of both the threatening men, Blizzard and Franklin. Blizzard had in particular been frustrated, with only 20 coming off the last 18 balls he faced. With MI 92 for 4 in the 13th over, it seemed it was all about Pollard. It couldn't have seemed more wrong. After Pollard flattered and deceived, Sathish and Yadav gave MI a target to bowl at.
The two men don't enjoy what can be termed a flattering history with the IPL side. It has often been said that Sathish wouldn't even make the side but for the injuries. One of those "injured" players was Yadav, whose injury had allowed MI five overseas players but whose subsequent playing for other teams had brought MI embarrassment. Now back ahead of the unimpressive Andrew Symonds, he put together a busy partnership with Sathish. Yadav tried the adventurous shots behind the stumps, and Sathish was more orthodox trying to drive down the ground, but it somehow worked a treat for them.
Whatever you say of the pitch, it doesn't matter to Malinga. Somerset have usually won games by hitting the new ball hard, and Peter Trego and Roelof van der Merwe have been the main destroyers at the top. Both of them fell to the genius of Malinga before they could make a contribution. A late outswinging yorker at the base of the off stump accounted for Trego, and a bewitching slower full toss that dipped on van der Merwe reduced Somerset to 17 for 2 after three overs.
Somerset refused to capitulate. Kieswetter played like a man who knew he would win the match if he took it deep. He was soon on that route, helped by the average fielding. He was missed on 31 and 50, and MI's part-time keeper Ambati Rayudu seemed to miss more than he collected. Kieswetter began the acceleration even as his associate James Hildreth fell with 61 left to score off 39.
Kieswetter knocked it around until it was 45 needed off four overs, two of which would be bowled by Malinga. He then took Abu Nechim Ahmed on and brought it down to 29 off three. Malinga now had to bowl two of the last three. No question of change of ends or plans if things went wrong. Perish the thought. Malinga responded with a seven-run over.
The over of the devil in this tournament, the 19th, was the event of the match. First off, Harbhajan Singh gambled by not only giving the ball to Franklin ahead of himself and Pollard, but also risked potential criticism that he was not prepared to bowl the big over himself. Harbhajan went with brain over heart, and Franklin responded too. The first ball was drilled wide of long-on. Only Pollard could have kept it from going for four. He did. The next ball was a sure four until it hit Kieswetter flush on, giving him no time to react and get out of the way. Jos Buttler would have thought he deserved eight off those two balls; he got two. Frustrated, he played the blind slog. Bowled.
Finally Kieswetter came back on strike to the fifth ball of the over. He had faced only six deliveries out of the last 27, batting with a man who went at a strike-rate of under 100. Now with 19 required off eight, six of which would be bowled by Malinga, Kieswetter had no choice. He went after this short-of-a-length ball, and top-edged. Game over.
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo