Duminy and Zaheer keep Kolkata down
Kolkata Knight Riders made a good attempt at causing possibly the biggest surprise of the season so far but fell short despite smart bowling for most of Mumbai's innings and a first fifty for them by Brad Hodge, who kept together a chase that threatened to fall away early on.
Mumbai turned the game irreversibly in six overs: the last three of their innings and the first three of Kolkata's. The main characters in this script were JP Duminy and Zaheer Khan. Duminy's late assault helped Mumbai scored 42 in the last three overs of an otherwise limp effort and, on the other side of the break, Zaheer removed Kolkata's openers Chris Gayle and Sourav Ganguly in his first two overs.
Hodge's innings was, in isolation, the best individual effort of the match. Chasing 149, Kolkata were 8 for 2 in the third over. Hodge consolidated along with Morne van Wyk and, while they didn't score at a spectacular rate, their 89-run stand kept Kolkata in the hunt. Hodge made an especially slow start, scoring 3 off the first 14 balls he faced. But once he'd stepped out and lofted Harbhajan Singh for a four in the sixth over, he pulled out a remarkable mix of sensible batting and attacking cricketing shots.
The three sixes he hit were hit down the ground without any power at all, just a clean swing of the straight bat. Despite the run-rate climbing every over, Kolkata were always with a chance while Hodge was in. With 61 required off the last six overs, he hit Graham Napier for back-to-back fours. With 51 needed from the last five, he hit Zaheer Khan for a six over long-off, and suddenly Kolkata needed just 38 in the last four overs with seven wickets in hand.
That's when Lasith Malinga delivered two near-perfect overs of death bowling, giving away just 11 runs and shutting Kolkata out. Mumbai's last three overs were a mirror image.
Kolkata had done everything right in the first 17 overs, but they still had Duminy to take care of. When Laxmi Shukla came on to bowl the 18th over, Duminy was 22 off 26 and Mumbai had reached only 106. He pulled Shukla for two sixes in the 18th over, and suddenly all Kolkata's good work from the first 17 overs seemed wasted. Ishant Sharma bowled a superb 19th over, giving away just nine runs and taking a wicket, but Duminy still stood between Kolkata and an easy target.
Two more sixes followed in the last over, both down the ground, off length deliveries from Dinda. The latter came off the last ball, which meant he had scored 30 off the last 11 balls he faced.
It was the most critical phase of the match: only two sixes had been hit before that, both by Sachin Tendulkar, emphasising the concern that Mumbai have been overly reliant on Tendulkar and Sanath Jayasuriya. Once Jayasuriya was out for 6, there was no danger of repeating the hammering they had handed out to Kolkata earlier this week.
It was also a day when Mumbai and Kolkata experimented a lot. Kolkata made proactive and frequent bowling changes, and didn't let the batsmen settle to any kind of rhythm. After the first 12 overs of the innings, five of seven bowlers used by Kolkata had gone for less than six an over, and four of them had taken a wicket each. Mumbai sent in their hitters Harbhajan Singh and Abhishek Nayar at Nos 3 and 4. Neither move worked and Mumbai paid the price of aiming too high.
When it came to Kolkata's innings, both teams tinkered with their opening combinations. Ganguly replaced Brendon McCullum at the top of the order, and Mumbai didn't open with Malinga, saving him for the latter half of the innings. The final experiment worked for Mumbai, with Malinga bowling tight overs towards the end, and it's the final experiment that counted.
Sidharth Monga is a staff writer at Cricinfo