Sizzling Jayasuriya pounds Chennai
Sachin Tendulkar's return dominated most of the pre-match buzz but it was the eruption from Sanath Jayasuriya that Mumbai toasted at the end of a comfortable nine-wicket win, their fourth in a row, at the Wankhede Stadium. Chennai appeared to have cobbled together a fighting total, in conditions that assisted swing bowling, but Jayasuriya's sizzler, the second-fastest IPL hundred that was punctuated with 11 sixes, put an emphatic end to the contest.
Mumbai's bowlers set-up this win with a fine new-ball exhibition that knocked off the top order. Shaun Pollock wasn't leading Mumbai today but his immaculate early spell (4-1-9-1) led an impressive effort that justified their decision to field first. Mahendra Singh Dhoni and S Badrinath stitched together a 95-run stand but 156 was never going to be challenging if even one batsman got going.
It was inevitable. Jayasuriya, who had made a short trip home during Mumbai's extended break, was yet to explode in the IPL and there was nothing Chennai could do once sixes began to drip off his bat. Nonchalant short-arm jabs sailed over the midwicket fence and a few powerful slashes soared over third man. The bowlers were rattled - they leaked wides and drifted on the pads too often - and fed Jayasuriya in his favourite areas. The fact that 102 off his 114 runs came in boundaries, told a story.
It was an innings reminiscent of the mid-90s, a time when Jayasuriya filled bowlers with a sense of fear. In fact it was at the same ground when he hammered an unforgettable 151 not out in the Independence Cup in 1997, an innings that was appreciated in hushed silence. This, though, was a celebration in power-hitting, with the crowd getting fully behind Jayasuriya in his fiery mission. One can only imagine the possibilities if Tendulkar had decided to bat first, allowing Jayasuriya a full 20 overs.
The manner in which he treated his fellow Sri Lankan bowlers was interesting - he attempted a couple of audacious reverse-paddles against Muttiah Muralitharan before blistering Chamara Kapudegera for 26 runs in five balls. He rushed to his hundred with two pulled sixes off Kapugedera - celebrating like a schoolboy who reached his maiden ton - and capped it off with one more that landed on the roof of the Wankhede. It was an unforgettable innings and Mumbai's response to what Adam Gilchrist did to them a few weeks back.
The bowlers deserve an honourable mention. It was a slew of medium-pacers who propelled Mumbai to an upset win over the Rajasthan Royals in the previous game and they utilised bowler-friendly conditions here too. The ball swung around through the innings and six medium-pacers shaped the ball either way to make life difficult for the batsmen.
Pollock turned in a typically miserly spell, including a maiden to finish off against a relatively new Dhoni. Dhoni, who said he would have fielded first had he won the toss, watched his side slump to 46 for 4 with the top order struggling against the accurate medium-pacers.
Pollock should have had Stephen Fleming in the first ball of the second over - when an edge fell just short of first slip - or even in the third - when Jayasuriya muffed a skier at point - but he had to settle for S Vidyut's wicket two balls later when Rohan Raje clung on to another skier at mid-off. Suresh Raina fell poking to an away-swinger from Dwayne Bravo before Kapugedera, the right-hander, did exactly the same to Dhawal Kulkarni's nippy away-cutter.
Dhoni and Badrinath redressed the balance somewhat. The pair improvised when the opportunity presented but it was Dhoni's fierce hitting that gave the bowlers no chance - even if he wasn't in position, the power behind the shots was always going to take it to the boundary ropes. Badrinath, who repertoire ranges from the square drive on the back foot to the paddle over short fine leg, brought up his second successive fifty. It appeared as if it could be a defendable total but Jayasuriya's blitz sunk them in a trice.
Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is an assistant editor at Cricinfo