Mumbai Indians v Royal Challengers Bangalore, CLT20, final, Chennai October 9, 2011

The over that won it for Mumbai Indians

Harbhajan Singh's intense opening over ended with the big wicket of Chris Gayle, and consequently put Mumbai Indians on course to win the Champions League

In his utterly brilliant debut novel Chinaman, Shehan Karunatilaka vividly likens the six balls in an over to the six bullets in a revolver. He writes that a bowler should not mind firing one or two into the air, as long as one of the remaining bullets finds the mark. Harbhajan Singh's first ball in the Champions League final was one such bullet - it did not get Chris Gayle's wicket, at least not immediately - but it set up an intense over that ended with his dismissal, and consequently put Mumbai Indians on course to win the Champions League Twenty20.

The game was set up beautifully in the first five overs of the chase. Royal Challengers Bangalore had started well in pursuit of 140, with Tillakaratne Dilshan trying to hit the Mumbai fast bowlers out of the attack. Harbhajan persisted with Lasith Malinga for a third over, and the bowler of the tournament delivered a 148-kph yorker to detonate the needlessly-aggressive Dilshan's stumps.

With one member of their top-order troika out of the game, the Royal Challengers needed Gayle and Virat Kohli to stick to the script that had worked for them in the lead-up to the final. Harbhajan would have known that separating them early would give Mumbai an opening into the Royal Challengers' underdone middle order.

The outcome was in the balance when Harbhajan wind-milled into his action, round the stumps to Gayle, who had only faced six balls in the first five overs. The first ball looped in at an angle, and landed on a length outside the off stump. Gayle indifferently reached out and felt for it with an opened face. It wasn't a poor choice of shot, given that the pitch had not shown signs of spin through the night. The ball, however, gripped the surface and veered away sharply as if it had a life of its own, squaring Gayle up.

With the echo of that first bullet still ringing in the air, Harbhajan used skill and subterfuge through the rest of the over to work Gayle over. The second ball spun even more than the first, and was called a wide as it darted away from Gayle's attempted cut. The viciousness of the spin consigned Gayle to the crease, and Harbhajan kept him guessing with one more fizzer that broke away wildly, and a couple that straightened from a flatter trajectory.

Sensing the kill, Harbhajan brought in an extra fielder in the covers and positioned a slip for the final ball. He curled it in with his trademark drift, got it to land on off stump and hurry in straight. Gayle was well forward, but the umpire upheld a marginal appeal - not the first slice of fortune that had gone Mumbai's way in the tournament.

With two of their three big guns spiked early, the Royal Challengers subsided in astonishingly limp fashion. Harbhajan continued to bowl beautifully, and went on to nip out the two batsmen most likely to resist Mumbai - Kohli and Daniel Vettori - on his way to figures of 3 for 20.

"That first ball actually got Gayle out," Harbhajan said after the match. "I knew that was an important over in the match, and obviously getting Gayle out was going to be crucial. After that ball, he was not sure which one was going to spin and which one would go straight. The first ball surprised him, and that probably did it for him."

Mumbai had made up for their lack of consistency through the tournament with the uncanny ability to win the big moments. On the day of the final, their captain's opening over ensured they won the biggest moment of the Champions League, and it was all smooth sailing thereafter.

Nitin Sundar is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Sharad on October 10, 2011, 14:57 GMT

    I'm not sure if RCB are what describes as "a wedge or block of wood, metal, or the like, for filling in a space, holding an object steady, etc." for chock. It just wasn't their day. As far as luck goes, it still is within the family (India). Dhoni's loss is bhajji's gain. Moral of the story: The overused cliche - cricket is a great leveller. Wonder if MI would've won had one Mr SRT played!! Serenity now.

  • Kalyan on October 10, 2011, 14:27 GMT

    MI won the match because Sachin was not captaining yesterday and that is a true statement. Remember it was the same situation in the IPL playoff. Here are the mistakes that Sachin did and Harbhajan didn't. 1. Sachin won the toss and elected to field (very very bad decision on a slow pitch) 2. Sachin went with just one spinner where as Bhajji went with two(Superkings made a living on that picth by playing 2 specialist spinners and using Raina as 3rd spinner on many occasions)3. Last but not least when Gayle is in such a form you don't experiment to open bowling with Abu Nachem when you have the best T20 bowler at your disposal.

  • Dummy4 on October 10, 2011, 14:12 GMT

    Don't know why new generation cricketers don't learn their lessons. Even a fool knows how sloooooooooooow, the Chennai pitch is and even when the asking run rate was just 7 per over, yet they didn't play like Javed Miandad, stealing the singles and went on for fancy shots. No wonder, it back fired. haha

  • Dummy4 on October 10, 2011, 12:45 GMT

    RCB are looks like chockers..they chock when they matter most..!! Final -Semi Final are the biggest even dan group matches...!! But well played Mumbai Indians...!!

  • Venkat on October 10, 2011, 12:24 GMT

    Hmmm....Wondering where was this super spinner version of Bhajji hiding in England....Anyway after the England debacle, I did not watch even a single over of CLT20. Let the Men in Blue win some International cricket against quality opposition and then we can watch their bravado in club cricket.

  • nalin on October 10, 2011, 11:55 GMT

    We are talking of one great performance of Habhajan at last but overlook the greatest one man performance in any T20 competition by MALINGA that elevated a side from hopeless to champions.

  • Dummy4 on October 10, 2011, 10:38 GMT

    @soumik, what has SRT not captaining has to do with the win. If anything, Bhajji captainship wasn't all that good to begin with, but sometimes you just have sheer luck. You are such a hater. No matter how great SRT is people like you always find an excuse to unlike him.

  • Anthony on October 10, 2011, 10:37 GMT

    This Champions League was enjoyable. As a Sri Lankan fan it was pleasing to see our very own Malinga ending as the most valuable player of the tournament and Dilshan almost putting RCB in a winnable position with the electrifying start he provided. When (not if) Harbhajan Singh is recalled to the Indian Team, he should be elevated as Captain as he displayed all the qualities of an exceptional captain, including awareness of the match situation, intuition and bravery in the decisions he made at critical times in the semi-final and final.

  • Dummy4 on October 10, 2011, 10:05 GMT

    Ohhhh PLEASE!!!!! Without MALINGA MI wouldn't have been in the quarter final, semi final and certainly in the final. Even in the final I believe it was Dilshan's wicket that changed the whole game. Dilshan was the only player to have a strike rate more than 100 (27 in 20 balls) in the team. In my opinion Malinga should have won the 'Man of the match' award as well.

  • Cond on October 10, 2011, 10:01 GMT

    Very sorry.. Did you notice the commentory..

    It was a NOT OUT, since the distance between the stumps & his leg was more.

    It wasnt a Lbw..

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