Tendulkar powers Mumbai to the top
Sachin Tendulkar was the rudder, Shikhar Dhawan provided propulsion, and they combined for a 92-run opening partnership which charted Mumbai Indians' course for success at the Brabourne Stadium. The victory helped the hosts steam past Royal Challengers Bangalore and take top spot in the league with a game in hand. The absence of major setbacks during the pursuit of a formidable target, on a day their usually efficient bowling attack failed, emphasised Mumbai's status as one of the tournament favourites.
Chennai Super Kings also had several things going for them as they sought to nip their budding losing streak: MS Dhoni had returned, Matthew Hayden bludgeoned Zaheer Khan to seize the initiative, and Suresh Raina and S Badrinath forged a partnership of 142, the second-best of all IPLs. However, their bowling attack is perhaps the competition's weakest and Dhoni had too many chinks to find cover for against a ruthless batting line-up. Muttiah Muralitharan apart, none of the others caused a flutter, and Mumbai cruised home with an over to spare. The defeat was Chennai's third in a row and their fourth in six games.
Mumbai's start wasn't fluent. There were few boundaries in the early overs, and a healthy helping of extras were needed to stay abreast of the asking-rate. Tendulkar's timing wasn't there, though that had little to do against the bowling of Albie Morkel and L Balaji. Then Dhoni gave the fifth over to Joginder Sharma, who did not play the previous game, and Dhawan cut loose, peppering the leg-side boundary with two pulls and a flick. The 50 was up in the fifth over and Dhawan accelerated further in the next by pulling Balaji for consecutive sixes.
Dhoni tried left-arm spinner Shadab Jakati after the fielding restrictions were lifted, but Dhawan greeted him with a reverse-swat to the boundary. In Jakati's second over, Dhawan charged and lofted him straight to reach a 31-ball fifty with a six. He holed out three balls later, but had already caused serious damage. Morkel had been satisfactory but the rest, especially the unthreatening medium-pace of Balaji and Joginder, had leaked runs.
Murali, who had come on in the eighth over, trapped Saurabh Tiwary lbw in the tenth during the only phase when Chennai reined Mumbai in. They scored 94 off nine overs and only 12 off the next three. Mumbai needed 75 off 48 balls and it was now that Tendulkar decided to hit his first six of the season, stepping out to Murali and lofting him over long-on. He didn't demolish the bowling during this half-century, brought up off 40 balls, but stayed in long enough to ensure there would be no hiccups during the chase.
The introduction of Thissara Perera sealed Chennai's fate. The debutant started with a full toss - on offer aplenty from Balaji and Joginder too - that Tendulkar put away to fine leg for four. He then bowled two more, and Tendulkar glanced them both off his pads effortlessly. While Tendulkar was being steady, Pollard muscled 20 off 9 balls to hack away at the asking-rate, and Dwayne Bravo ended it with typical Caribbean flair, flicking Balaji for four before getting the winning run.
Mumbai's batsmen rose to the challenge on a day their bowlers under-performed. Only Ryan McLaren, who took the new ball for the first time, and Harbhajan Singh exerted control over Chennai's scoring-rate, while Zaheer, Bravo and Lasith Malinga, who was first used only in the 11th, went for over ten an over.
Hayden wielded his bat like a club from the start. He missed the first ball, a wide from Zaheer, and hit the second to mid-on. The next four, all length deliveries with width, disappeared to different parts of the off-side boundary, each placed straighter than the previous one and dispatched with immense power off the front foot. Those hits were with a regular bat but Hayden called for the little one when Harbhajan came on in the third over. He lasted two balls before a slider caught him in front, leaving Chennai on 32 for 1.
Parthiv Patel followed soon after, bowled off his pads by a McLaren yorker, which brought together Raina and Badrinath. Raina was severe on Bravo, hitting his first two balls for a six and a four, chipping him over the slips before dealing him another six and four a few deliveries later. He brought up his half-century off 32 balls, Badrinath lofted Zaheer over his head to reach 50 off 41. They added 142, but towards the end were unable to find the fifth gear. Chennai had plenty of wickets in hand and looked set for 200-plus, but Malinga returned and conceded only seven off the final over to keep them to well below that. In the end, 180 wasn't enough.
George Binoy is a senior sub-editor at Cricinfo