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

  • 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.

  • 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....

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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)!

  • 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.

  • 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....

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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)!

  • arvsingh on October 9, 2011, 5:36 GMT

    No idea why people are posting comments about Dhoni on this article? Today's game was between MI and Somerset and tomorrow MI take on RCB in the finals. Dhoni is out of picture and recovering from the England debacle and CSK's dismal show in this tournament. I hope he does better against England and Australia in the upcoming series. Its going to be hard without Gary Kirsten, Yuvraj, Zaheer, and Harbhajan.

  • arvsingh on October 9, 2011, 5:25 GMT

    @Gokul Kanda ... whatever the result tomorrow, Harbhajan has made it "big" by leading a depleted MI team to the finals. Dhoni failed to make it "different" in England and his team CSK failed to even make it to the semifinals despite being an "All Stars" team. Dhoni has not only failed as captain, he has also failed as a leader and as a wicketkeeper. It is all obvious that Dhoni's past success were based on Gary Kirsten's master strategy and key contributions from Yuvraj (man of the series in CWC), Zaheer Khan, Harbhajan, and aging veterans - Tendulkar, Dravid, and Laxman. Take all that away and you get the results we saw in England. Let's see what Dhoni can do in upcoming series against England and Australia ...

  • on October 9, 2011, 4:39 GMT

    Just the right message sent by Harbajan to the selectors..........."chickening out of a tight spot"...Thank heavens Mumbai had Malinga

  • SanjivAwesome on October 9, 2011, 4:23 GMT

    Bhaji is an average turner who is in Team India for his historical record rather than form of last 2-3 years. He got lucky with his calls yesterday. Rather than captain material, I suggest he is carpet material.

  • rsurya on October 9, 2011, 4:18 GMT

    Dhoni would have given the ball to jakati or joginder sharma and also win the match. Now its Bajji who gave franklin the 19th over and won the match. But both are fluke and only fluke. Its better to make a very good cricketing decision and lose the match instead of relying on fluke turnouts. Shame on winning...... In cricket the luck part should end once the toss is over....

  • on October 9, 2011, 3:42 GMT

    @Gokul Kanda - Its a pity that u forgot the services of captains (Ganguly, Dravid and Kumble) under whom we won many matches outside of subcontinent... Hope u remember getting to No.1 is a long process and credit should not be given to Dhoni alone for India becoming No.1

  • on October 9, 2011, 3:23 GMT

    All you people must understand, there is only Dhoni and Dhoni only who is strategically , skilfully and luckily correct. Dhoni has done it time and again, but for the england tour. The English conditions did not suit Indians and so they lost, don't blame Dhoni and ask for replacements, it's his choice to lead from now on. He should be captain forever

  • AJGWST on October 9, 2011, 2:34 GMT

    Mumbai have 70% win chances because of the fact that they have registered 2 wins on this surface where as RCB have yet to play here

  • on October 9, 2011, 1:46 GMT

    Both Mumbai and Bangalore have their weaknesses that if exploited, will hurt them real bad - brittle middle order for both and in addition to that for Bangalore a bowling unit with the confidence of a deer in front of headlights! But both the teams have shown great resolve to overcome those shortcomings and winning some exciting games in this tournament so far. Though I am a hard core MI fan, hoping for a nail-biter and may the best team win tomorrow!!

  • Cpt.Meanster on October 9, 2011, 1:27 GMT

    I watched Bhajji's captaincy and I must say I am impressed. However, I still strongly feel he should have bowled the 19th over. Cause on that pitch, pace off the ball is vital, not pace on it. Franklin was lucky in my opinion. There were at least a couple of length balls that the batsmen could have put away. One shot hit Kieswetter which was unfortunate. So Bhajji had the luck going for him. While I don't approve of his choice of electing Franklin to bowl, I do admire his gutsy decision making skills. Some times a captain has to be shrewd and grab the bull by its horns. Then again I wouldn't base a T20 game to draw comparisons between Dhoni and Bhajji.

  • Karthi_2K11 on October 9, 2011, 0:49 GMT

    MI and RCB have faced off 10 times already, with MI leading 6-4 in these encounters. At neutral venues, (as the final is being played at such a one in Chennai), the head-to-head is 2 wins apiece. (RCB has also won 2 in Mumbai, while MI has won 3 in Bangalore, and 1 at Mumbai also). While Mumbai have the advantage of having played on the new Chennai pitch more often, RCB is a transformed side (after beating the indomitable NSW to which Mumbai lost). To think that as late and as recently as Wed., 5th Oct., they were languishing and scraping the bottom of the Group B points table, to being catapulted to the final within 3 days - is simply amazing ! It just goes to show how topsy-turvy this tournament has been and how RCB has turned the tables on its head. On the other hand, Mumbai are playing without their stars - SRT, Zaheer, and Davy Jacobs, to name a few, and yet, have come up with some fine performances. So, the Final would be an absorbing contest and won't give us a lopsided result.

  • on October 9, 2011, 0:31 GMT

    @Krishna Darooka ha ha ha ....dude which world are you from...harbhajan instead of dhoni (lol).....for which bhaji should be selected in the team first of all...he would have been dropped long time ago if not for dhoni's support...and remember that dhoni has won 2 worldcups, 3 league championships,took india to no.1 in tests, and is still in the top 10 odi batsmen list.........if guys like you think dhoni would be replaced as the captain then all i can do is pity for u...

  • on October 8, 2011, 23:28 GMT

    If Harbhjan bowling improves than who knows he may prove to be a better captain for India than Dhony who was a total failure as a cptain in England. Also Dhony should have been punioshed riutinely by removing him as a captain for losing the series 4-0

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  • on October 8, 2011, 23:28 GMT

    If Harbhjan bowling improves than who knows he may prove to be a better captain for India than Dhony who was a total failure as a cptain in England. Also Dhony should have been punioshed riutinely by removing him as a captain for losing the series 4-0

  • on October 9, 2011, 0:31 GMT

    @Krishna Darooka ha ha ha ....dude which world are you from...harbhajan instead of dhoni (lol).....for which bhaji should be selected in the team first of all...he would have been dropped long time ago if not for dhoni's support...and remember that dhoni has won 2 worldcups, 3 league championships,took india to no.1 in tests, and is still in the top 10 odi batsmen list.........if guys like you think dhoni would be replaced as the captain then all i can do is pity for u...

  • Karthi_2K11 on October 9, 2011, 0:49 GMT

    MI and RCB have faced off 10 times already, with MI leading 6-4 in these encounters. At neutral venues, (as the final is being played at such a one in Chennai), the head-to-head is 2 wins apiece. (RCB has also won 2 in Mumbai, while MI has won 3 in Bangalore, and 1 at Mumbai also). While Mumbai have the advantage of having played on the new Chennai pitch more often, RCB is a transformed side (after beating the indomitable NSW to which Mumbai lost). To think that as late and as recently as Wed., 5th Oct., they were languishing and scraping the bottom of the Group B points table, to being catapulted to the final within 3 days - is simply amazing ! It just goes to show how topsy-turvy this tournament has been and how RCB has turned the tables on its head. On the other hand, Mumbai are playing without their stars - SRT, Zaheer, and Davy Jacobs, to name a few, and yet, have come up with some fine performances. So, the Final would be an absorbing contest and won't give us a lopsided result.

  • Cpt.Meanster on October 9, 2011, 1:27 GMT

    I watched Bhajji's captaincy and I must say I am impressed. However, I still strongly feel he should have bowled the 19th over. Cause on that pitch, pace off the ball is vital, not pace on it. Franklin was lucky in my opinion. There were at least a couple of length balls that the batsmen could have put away. One shot hit Kieswetter which was unfortunate. So Bhajji had the luck going for him. While I don't approve of his choice of electing Franklin to bowl, I do admire his gutsy decision making skills. Some times a captain has to be shrewd and grab the bull by its horns. Then again I wouldn't base a T20 game to draw comparisons between Dhoni and Bhajji.

  • on October 9, 2011, 1:46 GMT

    Both Mumbai and Bangalore have their weaknesses that if exploited, will hurt them real bad - brittle middle order for both and in addition to that for Bangalore a bowling unit with the confidence of a deer in front of headlights! But both the teams have shown great resolve to overcome those shortcomings and winning some exciting games in this tournament so far. Though I am a hard core MI fan, hoping for a nail-biter and may the best team win tomorrow!!

  • AJGWST on October 9, 2011, 2:34 GMT

    Mumbai have 70% win chances because of the fact that they have registered 2 wins on this surface where as RCB have yet to play here

  • on October 9, 2011, 3:23 GMT

    All you people must understand, there is only Dhoni and Dhoni only who is strategically , skilfully and luckily correct. Dhoni has done it time and again, but for the england tour. The English conditions did not suit Indians and so they lost, don't blame Dhoni and ask for replacements, it's his choice to lead from now on. He should be captain forever

  • on October 9, 2011, 3:42 GMT

    @Gokul Kanda - Its a pity that u forgot the services of captains (Ganguly, Dravid and Kumble) under whom we won many matches outside of subcontinent... Hope u remember getting to No.1 is a long process and credit should not be given to Dhoni alone for India becoming No.1

  • rsurya on October 9, 2011, 4:18 GMT

    Dhoni would have given the ball to jakati or joginder sharma and also win the match. Now its Bajji who gave franklin the 19th over and won the match. But both are fluke and only fluke. Its better to make a very good cricketing decision and lose the match instead of relying on fluke turnouts. Shame on winning...... In cricket the luck part should end once the toss is over....

  • SanjivAwesome on October 9, 2011, 4:23 GMT

    Bhaji is an average turner who is in Team India for his historical record rather than form of last 2-3 years. He got lucky with his calls yesterday. Rather than captain material, I suggest he is carpet material.