Somerset v MI, 2nd semi-final, CLT20, Chennai October 8, 2011

Brave Harbhajan wriggles out of a catch-22

Harbhajan Singh's gamble to hand James Franklin the 19th over ahead of himself was a brave decision, but worked out in Mumbai Indians' favour
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Harbhajan Singh wore a pensive look at the end of the 18th over of Somerset's chase. With good reason too; Craig Kieswetter was assuredly pushing Mumbai Indians out of the tournament.

The situation was far better a little earlier, with 45 runs to defend in four overs. But Kieswetter carted Abu Nechim's 17th over for 16 runs to drastically reduce the cushion. Lasith Malinga came on for the 18th over with wickets in his sights, but Somerset worked him around for seven runs, and crucially denied him a strike. With set batsmen at the crease, Somerset needed 22 to win off 12 balls, and Harbhajan found himself in a catch-22 situation.

Ball in hand, Harbhajan trotted from his position in the covers to Ambati Rayudu, who was having a terrible day behind the stumps. Surely the captain was going to confront the pressure head-on and bowl the 19th over himself? Kieron Pollard moved over from his fielding position and joined in the discussion. Hands were waved, gestures were made, and at long last, a decision was taken. As far as radical choices go, this one was from well beyond left-field - James Franklin was brought on for his gentle trundlers on a length.

Harbhajan was skating on thin ice, on several counts. Irrespective of the outcome, his decision to abstain from bowling was going to be questioned. He had come under criticism in England for shying away from his responsibility as a senior bowler, but here he also had the responsibility of having to lead from the front.

Additionally, the 19th over had been bowling sides' banana peel right through the tournament, with even Dale Steyn failing twice in the over of the devil. Alfonso Thomas, the Somerset captain, had won his side a game with a brilliant 19th over, but had stumbled at the same hurdle earlier in the day. With a T20 economy-rate of 8.12, and just four overs in the tournament prior to this game, Franklin was virtually set up to fail.

Harbhajan was backing his gut feel with solid plans, though. His best fielders - Pollard and Aiden Blizzard - were dispatched to the positions where slogged length balls were most likely to go: deep midwicket and long-on. There was also protection at deep backward square leg and square on the off side, so Harbhajan had most bases covered. Over to Franklin.

The first ball was on a length, and Jos Buttler muscled it between Pollard and Blizzard, who tag-teamed on the edge of the field to deny the boundary. The next ball should have also gone for four, but Buttler smashed a low full toss straight into Kieswetter's forearm, leaving him writhing in pain and bringing about a lengthy stoppage in play. As it transpired, the break killed Somerset's momentum, and ultimately their campaign. Buttler lost his stumps after missing a frustrated slog off the third ball, and Kieswetter holed out off the next ball he faced. Malinga then easily closed out the game in the 20th by detonating the stumps twice.

"I always wanted to ensure we had the luxury of several options in the end," Harbhajan explained later. "I definitely wanted to keep Malinga for the last over because, if it came down to eight or tens runs to defend in six balls, he is the only guy who can actually defend those runs. Franklin and Pollard were all ready for any kind of situation; I kept them alert from the 15th over onwards, I had told them it could be me, Pollard, Franklin or [Yuzvendra] Chahal.

"Given the situation - 22 runs in 2 overs with the wicket keeping low - I decided to go with Franklin and he responded really well."

Despite Harbhajan's lucid line of thinking, Mumbai had fortune favouring them once again, as it had done right through the tournament. If Buttler's power-drive off the second ball had gone a foot either side of Kieswetter, it would have come down to 16 off 10 balls and Franklin would have felt the pressure. As it transpired, the shot homed in on Kieswetter like a guided missile, leaving him maimed in addition to robbing Somerset of a crucial boundary.

The luck was with Mumbai once again, as it had been when MS Dhoni fluffed a simple stumping to reprieve Lasith Malinga, when Daren Ganga pushed his field back inexplicably with two to defend off the last ball, and when Denesh Ramdin missed a straight-forward run-out from two yards away.

In summation, Harbhajan had been mighty brave ahead of the 19th over, and fortune chose to honour its half of the deal. It has taken Mumbai Indians to within a step of their first tournament win, but their opponents on Sunday will match them in both, daring and hunger. Here's hoping for a humdinger.

Nitin Sundar is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • dummy4fb on October 9, 2011, 15:05 GMT

    @landl47 satish and yadav are overseas players? they got around 65 runs which is similar to kohli's 70.

  • MENDIS_Forever on October 9, 2011, 13:44 GMT

    a totally wrong explanation for the term "Catch-22".To understand the real meaning,please download the movie "Catch-22" and watch it.nice story.

  • NP_NY on October 9, 2011, 10:00 GMT

    @Aayush Kataria: Actually what Niraj said does make sense. One good/fortunate decision doesn't make Bhajji a good captain. He should not have bowled Abu Nechim in the 17th over when both Pollard and Franklin had much better figures and experience.

  • dummy4fb on October 9, 2011, 8:24 GMT

    no i think..Kieswetter is good at playing spin as is butler..so harbhajan did right to abstain himself..could have gone wit pollard but that ro them a brilliant fielder..yes Franklin could have flopped as we have seen with the likes of Steyn..but prior experience and the cutters helped him..Bhajji s courageous..

  • Rajul_Tandon on October 9, 2011, 8:15 GMT

    @Landl47...what do you wanna say after a ordinary series by county teams.... that IPL teams are better than county teams....and how can England cricket fans comment on better performances by foreign players in IPL team when your home team is itself full of south african and Indian players and they are the only ones who are performing right now....

  • dummy4fb on October 9, 2011, 7:39 GMT

    @niraj -MI won the match what u say now does not make any sense becouse what bhajji did worked out @gokul and balaji coimbatore -totaly agree

  • dummy4fb on October 9, 2011, 7:06 GMT

    @Chandau: You have asked a right question!! Another catch 22 situation in a folk saying - A woman is mad, but the madness would go away if she gets married; But she cannot get married unless the madness goes away. Here, Harbhajan was only facing a dilemma about whom to give the ball and he took a decision. There doesn't seem to be any catch 22 here.

  • dummy4fb on October 9, 2011, 6:09 GMT

    Bhajji is a poor captain. With Pollard and Franklin around, Nechim should have bowled out his 4 earlier as he was in good rhythm touching 140+ kmph and troubling batsmen with speed. When Pollard has 10 in 2 and Frankling has 9 in2, cant see why they were discontinued with batsmen only taking singles. 17th should have been bowled by Malinga when 45 of 4 was required. That would have put more pressure and less opportunities to Somerset leaving Bhajji an option to Bowl Malinga in 19th or 20th depending on how situation would unfold. Bhajji was surely lucky with Franklin call and MI overall lucky to be there in the finals with such a poor / out of form batting lineup, average fielding and poor bowling (except Malinga).

  • landl47 on October 9, 2011, 5:54 GMT

    Mumbai's 4 overseas players made more than half the runs and took all but one of the wickets. That follows a similar performance by RCB, where Chris Gayle top scored and Dilshan bowled his 4 overs for 10 runs. So it will come down to a battle of Mumbai's overseas stars against RCB's overseas stars. The edge must go to RCB, because they have the only Indian in either side to do anything in the semi-finals, Virat Kohli.

  • chandau on October 9, 2011, 5:51 GMT

    hmmm what is the catch 22 in this case i wonder. A "catch 22" is a situation that works in a circular sort of way; in other words it is a situation that has 2 scenarios which seem to cancell out each other. The best English equivalent is "which came first - chicken or egg?" an example of a catch 22 is : to drive on the road one needs a driving license - but to get a driving license one needs to drive on the road! another good one is; a husband and wife are one in the eyes of the law (hence when they divorce the assets are divided 50:50) but for all intents and purposes they are treated as two (say on train or a bus or a plane they need two tickets)!

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