Kolkata embarrassed in record rout
Shaun Pollock led a stand-out seam-bowling performance as the Mumbai Indians notched up the most convincing win of the tournament, and their fifth in a row, handing the Kolkata Knight Riders an eight-wicket drubbing at the Wankhede Stadium. None of Kolkata's batsmen came to terms with the seamer-friendly pitch, crumbling to an embarrassing 67 all out - the lowest score of the tournament and the fifth-lowest in all Twenty20 matches - before Sanath Jayasuriya hastened the finish with a 17-ball 48, as Mumbai sailed home with 87 deliveries to spare - a record in all Twenty20 games - significantly boosting their hopes of a semi-final berth.
The visitors were put in by Sachin Tendulkar, who won his second toss in a row, but even he wouldn't have dreamed of the display his bowlers served up. The pitch helped significantly, offering bounce and plenty of seam movement to each of the five bowlers who were used - in fact, so good were the conditions for seam bowling that Rajesh Pawar, the left-arm spinner who made his IPL debut, wasn't even pressed into the attack.
The start was deceptively normal, with Salman Butt moving away to club Pollock down the ground for four, and then carving Ashish Nehra for the 400th six of the IPL. From then on, only one team did all the celebrating.
Pollock led the way, bowling with impeccable control, seaming the ball both ways from a perfect length, and giving the batsmen no chance. Against a top four that has an equal mix of right- and left-handers, Pollock kept his line around off stump against both, extracting bounce and seaming the ball away to induce the edge. Butt was the first to perish to the movement, getting a leading edge while trying to flick, offering Tendulkar the first of four catches.
Thereafter, the slide was swift. Kolkata made the situation worse when Aakash Chopra was involved in his second mix-up with Sourav Ganguly in three games, charging down the pitch even as Ganguly didn't respond. Another perfect delivery in the corridor from Pollock accounted for David Hussey, and when Tendulkar decided to bowl his four overs on the trot, Pollock responded by inducing an edge off Mohammad Hafeez, which was snaffled by Robin Uthappa at a wide second slip.
Pollock was done, finishing with figures of 3 for 12, but there was no respite for Kolkata, as Dwayne Bravo continued from where Pollock had left off, getting exaggerated seam movement in both directions. Wriddhiman Saha was defeated by the bounce and movement, and slashed to Tendulkar, and Kolkata had lost half their side for 29.
With the conditions so friendly for the seamers, Tendulkar cleverly decided to use Dominic Thornely and Rohan Raje, both medium-pace bowlers, and the results came almost instantly. Raje removed the dangerous Laxmi Ratan Shukla with a superb delivery which pitched on middle and seamed away to take off stump.
Through the destruction at the other end, Ganguly hung on patiently, hoping to weather the storm and guide Kolkata to a respectable total. He came in to bat in the third over and stayed till the 13th, but was stuck at the non-striker's end most of the time, facing only 20 deliveries as the batting line-up was destroyed at the other end. He finally perished in tame fashion, as Yogesh Takawale hung on to a catch with his second attempt as Ganguly tried to cut. With Kolkata's last hope falling, the rest followed quickly.
Kolkata's only hope of avoiding complete embarrassment was for Shoaib Akhtar to do an encore of the previous game. He began with a fiery first over, having Jayasuriya dropped at slip off the first ball, and then winning his personal battle with Tendulkar, who nibbled one to the wicketkeeper, slightly dampening the spirits of the home crowd.
Jayasuriya's response to that dismissal was emphatic, as he waded into Ishant Sharma and Shoaib in the next two overs. After clipping Ishant unconvincingly over mid-on, he found his timing perfectly in Shoaib's next over: a flick and a short-arm pull both sailed over the boundary, while two crisp drives raced through the covers in an over which leaked 23, more than one-third of the target.
The Shoaib threat was over, and the end came soon after, as Jayasuriya flicked a no-ball off Ishant for his 17th six of the IPL, the highest for a batsman in the tournament, and then finished it off next ball. Mumbai now have the best net run-rate, and with ten points from nine games, have given themselves an excellent chance of making the last four.
S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo