Harbhajan sizzles in Mumbai win
They say a Twenty20 match can be won in ten minutes of violent batting or inspired bowling. Harbhajan Singh needed only 18 balls when he batted, and just one delivery when he bowled, to win the game for Mumbai Indians. Double-strikes from RP Singh and Pragyan Ojha had reduced Mumbai to 119 for 7, but Harbhajan played a wickedly-entertaining cameo to charge his team to 172. He wasn't done yet and opened the bowling to remove Adam Gilchrist with his second delivery, dealing the most crippling blow to the Deccan Chargers chase.
The game changed in a Mumbai minute at the DY Patil Stadium. When Harbhajan entered in the 17th over Mumbai had lost the plot after a good start, but he led a stunning turnaround with an 18-ball 49. He hit a six and a four off Andrew Symonds in the 18th over but it was in the next, bowled by Kemar Roach, who until then had looked impressive, that he went berserk. Harbhajan started with a slapped four over extra cover before swinging merrily to the on side, including a shovelled six over square-leg, to plunder 19 runs. In the final over bowled by two bowlers - Jaskaran Singh was no-balled out of the innings after hurling two beamers and Rohit Sharma finished the over- Harbhajan crashed four boundaries, this time concentrating on the straight boundary.
Deccan needed a blitz from Gilchrist when they chased but he was undone by the combo of Harbhajan and Sachin Tendulkar. He edged an attempted cut low to the right of first slip where Tendulkar held on to a sharp one-handed catch. Herschelle Gibbs blasted a few boundaries but he fell, swatting a full toss from Zaheer Khan to cover point, and when Lasith Malinga induced Andrew Symonds to slash a short delivery to third man, the game was all but over.
Rohit Sharma tried valiantly with an attacking knock but Harbhajan ensured that he didn't get much support by picking up two more middle-order wickets. Zaheer returned in the 17th over to york Rohit and terminate the chase.
Until Harbhajan's adventure with the bat, it was Deccan who had held all the cards. Mumbai had reached 63 in seven overs, with the well-settled Tendulkar and Dwayne Bravo looking in roaring form, and looked set for a big score before it started to unravel for them. It was RP Singh who triggered the slide with a double strike in the eighth over. Until then, he was struggling to keep the batsmen quiet as Tendulkar and Bravo kept driving him to the boundary, but he struck twice in succession to remove Bravo and Saurabh Tiwary. They weren't wicket-taking balls - Bravo holed out to long-off and Tiwary edged a wide one - but the blows pushed Mumbai on the back foot.
Tendulkar slowed down, looking for someone to stay with him, and Ojha sparkled with a teasing spell of left-arm spin. The runs came in a trickle and Ambati Rayudu, looking to break free, was done in by a beauty: Rayudu was lured out of his crease by a flighted delivery that dipped rapidly before spinning past the bat for an easy stumping opportunity. Ojha proceeded to apply more pressure with deliveries that turned and bounced. R Sathish was his next victim, edging the sweep to backward square-leg and, when Kieron Pollard fell top-edging a pull off Jaskaran, Mumbai were wobbling at 93 for 5 in 13.1 overs.
It seemed, at that juncture, that only Tendulkar could save the day for Mumbai but he fell off the first ball after the second time out, edging a pull against RP Singh. Just when you thought Deccan had done it, Harbhajan decided to seize the day with a devastating knock.
Sriram Veera is a staff writer at Cricinfo