Rohit dazzles as Mumbai win thriller
Mumbai Indians 142 for 5 (Rohit 73*, Steyn 3-12) beat Deccan Chargers 138 for 9 (Dhawan 41, Christian 39, Munaf 4-20) by five wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
The fifth edition of the IPL, which began in tepid fashion, finally had a nail-biter as Rohit Sharma hit the last ball of the match for six to seal a thrilling finish for Mumbai Indians against Deccan Chargers, who fought tooth and nail while defending 139. Daniel Christian, not the wisest choice for the final over, as very recent history tells us, dished out two full tosses to Rohit. One of them was off the final ball, which was dispatched over long-on to spark wild celebrations.
The Chargers were still favourites with 18 to defend off the last over. Kumar Sangakkara had bowled out his best bowler, Dale Steyn, leaving the final task with Christian. The first ball was smashed by James Franklin past long-off for four; the second down the same region; the batsmen sneaked a bye off the third; the fourth was a high full toss slammed by Rohit Sharma over deep backward point. With five needed off two, the penultimate ball was forced to long-off and Rohit Sharma timed his dive just in time to survive a run-out appeal. Christian couldn't come up with anything special, gifting Rohit Sharma the most hittable delivery of the over, breaking the hearts of the home fans who saw their side slip to a second straight defeat.
Fortunes kept oscillating in the final overs, but for most periods in the chase, the Chargers were in control. Much of the credit should go to Steyn, who ran in with the same vigour as he does for South Africa. He defeated the best hitters in the Mumbai line-up with raw pace and fizzy bounce, nipping out three wickets for just 12 runs. He took 2 for 6 in his first spell, conceded just two off his next over and only five off his final over. In hindsight, Sangakkara will feel he should have kept him for the final over.
Steyn gave the Chargers the early advantage by plucking a return catch in his follow-through to get rid of T Suman. The fourth over, a wicket-maiden from Steyn, was the spectacle of the evening. He ran in high on adrenaline and had his fellow countryman Richard Levi all at sea with raw pace. He targeted the stumps, forced Levi to stab at deliveries cramping him for room, foxed him with a slower one that sneaked past the outside edge and the stumps, bounced him, but saved his best delivery for the last. Levi played all around a fiery full ball that knocked back his middle stump.
For a team with big hitters at the top, Mumbai were struggling at 15 for 2 after five overs. The run-rate touched the five mark only after 11 overs, indicative of how miserly the Chargers were. The ball spun, gripped and even kept low, meaning the batsmen had to concentrate harder. Rohit fetched two boundaries and a six - over extra cover - off Christian to keep Mumbai afloat.
The arrival of Kieron Pollard, in the 12th over, perked up the run-rate. The spinners were always vulnerable against Pollard, who swung two sixes and a four to leave Mumbai a gettable 56 off the last six overs. Another spiteful over from Steyn, in which he hit the deck hard, softened up Pollard. He slammed Amit Mishra over long-off the following over, but perished trying the same against Christian, skying it to Shikhar Dhawan at long-off. Mumbai's shoulders would have dropped after Pollard walked off, but not Rohit's, as he walloped two more sixes off Mishra to restore hope for his side.
Rohit's hitting overshadowed Munaf Patel's four-wicket haul, which was responsible for restricting the Chargers. It also masked an ugly incident involving Sangakkara's dismissal, where some of the Mumbai players got confrontational with the umpires. Munaf bowled a low full toss which Sangakkara shaped to drive, but got an inside edge which shaved the off stump and knocked off the bails. The wicketkeeper Dinesh Karthik was standing up close and the ball deflected back to the stumps off his pads, causing confusion as to whether he was legitimately bowled in the first place. The umpires initially gave Sangakkara the benefit of the doubt, choosing not to refer it to the third umpire. The Mumbai players were peeved, particularly Munaf, who flung the ball on the turf as he ambled back to his mark.
A furious Harbhajan Singh marched to the square leg umpire Johan Cloete, who was soon enveloped by Munaf and Karthik. A clueless Sangakkara went across to have a word with the umpires but by then, it was as if the umpires were coerced into referring it. In theory, Sangakkara was legitimately out and the umpires should have had the presence of mind to consult. Mumbai's road-rage, though, left a bad taste in the mouth and it makes one wonder how different it could have been had Sachin Tendulkar, Mumbai's original captain, been in charge. Tendulkar, unfortunately, was at the dug out, and there was nobody around to defuse the situation.
Cameron White and Christian added a quick 41 for the fifth wicket, smashing four sixes in their stand to boost the Chargers before the lower order was reined in. The target proved a challenging one, but the visitors were fortunate to run into a bowler who suffered another nightmare of conceding a six off the last ball in front of a global television audience.
Kanishkaa Balachandran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo