Chennai edge out Mumbai in thriller
A spirited late assault from Abhishek Nayar and Harbhajan Singh threatened to gatecrash the Chennai Super Kings' first home game but, with the match in the balance in the final over, Mahendra Singh Dhoni's side held their nerve to clinch a thrilling six-run win. A 104-run stand between Matthew Hayden and Suresh Raina took Chennai to an imposing 208 for 5 that was nearly overhauled by Nayar's 20-ball 45.
With Mumbai needing 62 off the last four overs, with four wickets in hand, the contest seemed pretty much over. Nayar and Harbhajan, captaining again in Sachin Tendulkar's absence, had other plans. P Amarnath had conceded 36 off his first three overs but that was miserly compared to what he was subjected to in his final over. Harbhajan clubbed a six over long-off before Nayar, the left-hander, hit two fours through the leg-side, and made it 21 for the over by launching an overpitched ball over long-off. Amarnath finished with 57 off his four, the most runs conceded by a bowler in a match for the tournament.
Jacob Oram was next; he hadn't been thrifty in his first spell, going for 40 off his three, and two sixes from Harbhajan saw him finish with 53 off his quota. That brought the target down to 28 off 12, and it brought Muttiah Muralitharan on to bowl. There was a bit of gamesmanship between him and his rival offspinner Harbhajan but Murali won the round, giving away only nine and leaving Nayar having to get 19 off the final over.
As he had done during the World Twenty20, Dhoni entrusted the final over to Joginder Sharma but the returns weren't immediately as successful; Nayar, in the manner of Lance Klusener, carved boundaries off the first two balls and then Joginder overstepped. That no-ball probably decided the match; Nayar drove it straight to Badrinath at backward point but took the single, leaving Ashish Nehra on strike for the following free hit. Joginder committed no errors from there on, sealing the six-run win.
Chennai had been put in by Mumbai Indians at the toss, but Harbhajan needed to utilise eight bowlers to stem the flow of runs as the batsmen made merry. Hayden came up against old nemesis Shaun Pollock, who knowing the Australian's tendency to stand out of his crease, summoned Luke Ronchi up to the stumps. Hayden responded with a deft paddle sweep for four before smashing two fours over the bowler's head. To make matters worse, four byes came off the final delivery of the over, which cost an expensive 18 runs.
Michael Hussey, top scorer in Chennai's previous game, failed to cash in, bottom-edging one onto the stumps while giving Dhawal Kulkarni the charge, but Hayden was muscling the ball cleanly, biffing a short one from Nehra to bring up the 200th four of the tournament. He was joined by Suresh Raina, who was content with pushing the ball into the gaps for singles. Kulkarni varied his length to good effect in his first spell, and wasn't afraid to push in the occasional bouncer, including one that surprised Raina.
Harbhajan brought himself on in the eighth over and Raina, stepping out, nearly found the fielder in the deep. Dwayne Bravo, a last-minute addition to the Mumbai Indians squad, came on at the other end, and Hayden nearly cleaned up Raina with the straight boundary. Harbhajan conceded only 14 off his two overs but Raina broke the shackles by clubbing a low full toss over long-off. The 50-partnership came off 35 balls, and Chennai were set once again for a big score.
After ten overs, they were at 82 for 2, and it soon became 112 for 2 after 12. Bravo was pulled for six over midwicket by Raina before Vikrant Yeligati gave away 16 off his only over. Pollock came on for his second spell, and this time Hayden brought out the reverse-sweep, a shot that would have surely deflated the South African. Raina cashed in as well, guiding one past through the short fine leg, and Pollock was to finish with 0 for 32 off his three overs. Of all the bowlers used by Mumbai, only Nehra bowled out his four, while Harbhajan surprisingly bowled only two.
Mumbai lost Ronchi early in their reply, and Jayasuriya, who made full use of Oram's poor control, departed trying to pull one shot too many against Manpreet Gony. A rather unknown entity, the tall Gony was excellent with his line and length, using his height to good effect. His first over was a maiden, and Dhoni bowled him through his four, after which his figures were an impressive 4-1-18-1.
Robin Uthappa led a revival with his 43, taking 19 off an Oram over, but he was bowled trying to guide Joginder over midwicket. Pollock took 11 singles before carting Amarnath for a six, but the bowler had the last hurrah, castling the South African.
After two games, Mumbai, whose owners paid the highest for the franchise, find themselves without a win. It's not the present they will want for their captain the day before his birthday but the present everyone wants to see is Tendulkar's return to the side.
Mathew Varghese is an editorial assistant at Cricinfo