Simmering Jayasuriya finally boils over
Sachin Tendulkar's return from injury was the biggest draw in the build-up to the clash between Mumbai and Chennai. He was expected to bring further luck to a team that had strung together a hat-trick of wins after enduring four straight losses and his partnership with Sanath Jayasuriya at the top of the Mumbai Indians' batting line-up was a much awaited spectacle. However, he was completely overshadowed by his partner Jayasuriya, whose scything blade cut Chennai down swiftly.
Jayasuriya has had a quiet tournament, getting off to starts but failing to carry on. His seven innings preceding the blitz against Mumbai read 29, 20, 1, 18, 18, 34 and 18. The 34 against Delhi's Glenn McGrath and Mohammad Asif was filled with intent but he disappointed. You could see him walking back each time with discontent writ large across his face because he knew he hadn't even got started yet .
Perhaps the presence of Tendulkar at the other end gave him comfort for Jayasuriya expressed himself fully against Chennai. "It's the best day of my life to open with Sachin," Jayasuriya said after the game. "The advantage he lends is that he lets me play my own game." In previous matches, Jayasuriya had paired up with the Australian Luke Ronchi and the local man Yogesh Takawale. The partnership with Ronchi was unsuccessful and although Takawale managed to provide a couple of decent starts, the responsibility fell on Jayasuriya for he was the senior player and perhaps that had an impact on his stroke-play.
Today Jayasuriya cut loose and the effect of his approach was devastating. Mahendra Singh Dhoni strove to curtail his progress but he might as well have just admired the spectacle unfolding in front of him.
Jayasuriya had already shut Chennai out by the end of the Powerplays for Mumbai had scored 78 after six overs. He caused severe damage with the short-arm jab, both over point and square leg, and scored majority of his runs behind square: 33 on the leg-side and 31 on the off. He struck as many as 11 sixes and won his duels with every bowler.
Even Muttiah Muralitharan, Sri Lankan team-mate and long-time friend, caused no problems for Jayasuriya. When Dhoni, desperate for a wicket, placed two slips for Murali who was spinning the ball across the left-hander, Jayasuriya chose to hit the ball towards the gaps on the leg-side. He even attempted to reverse-sweep Murali, twice.
Murali's introduction into the attack, though, was well after the game was up. When Chennai's inexperienced new-ball pair of Manpreet Gony and Albie Morkel were bleeding runs, Dhoni seemed reluctant to take them off. He would have done well to remember how Tendulkar had made frequent bowling changes to unsettle the batsmen. Only Shaun Pollock was given three consecutive overs while the rest were rotated constantly.
Chennai's medium-pacers, on the other hand, allowed Jayasuriya to settle by feeding him in his favourite areas - short and wide outside off, or full on his pads. Dhoni admitted that the inconsistent lines and lengths had proved extremely costly. "They either bowled too full or too wide and against a batsman like Sanath if you do that you will get badly hit", Dhoni said.
For batsmen like Jayasuriya, the hunger to succeed comes from the occasion. Mumbai needed to keep their momentum going into a crucial match against Kolkata on Friday, a game that is vital to their semi-final aspirations. Pollock was the inspiration behind their hat-trick of wins, and today it was Jayasuriya's turn. Even Tendulkar acknowledged that "It was nice to watch him."