Ruthless Mumbai march into final
Everything changed in the last five overs of the Mumbai Indians' innings. The game was in a deadlock at the end of 15 overs with Mumbai on 107 for 4 - some might have even felt that Royal Challengers Bangalore held the edge - but things took a dramatic turn from there on. Saurabh Tiwary hit an enterprising half-century and Kieron Pollard played a delightful cameo to charge Mumbai to 184 for 5 at the DY Patil Stadium. It was a bridge too far even for the batting-heavy Bangalore and they never really threatened to get anywhere close to the target. The 35-run win took Mumbai to the final, and sealed their qualification for the Champions League Twenty20 to be held in September.
It was always going to be a difficult chase and things got really tough for Bangalore in the tenth over with the fall of Robin Uthappa and Rahul Dravid off successive deliveries. Bangalore had reached 80 for 2 from nine overs and had already lost Kevin Pietersen to a smart leg-side stumping by Ambati Rayudu off Harbhajan Singh; they then suffered the twin blows that effectively killed the contest. Uthappa was in hot form, collecting 18 runs from Harbhajan's over with the help of two thumping sixes, but he dragged a slower one from Pollard straight to deep midwicket.
Before Bangalore could recover from that asphyxiating blow, they lost Dravid, who had played a fluent knock, to a run-out resulting from a misunderstanding with Ross Taylor. Pollard removed both Virat Kohli and Manish Pandey and though Taylor hung around for a while, he couldn't produce any miracle tonight. Bangalore were left to rue their ordinary effort in the field in the last five overs where they lost the game.
The game actually changed in character twice during Mumbai's innings: first after the first time-out was taken at the end of seven overs, and second from the 15th over onwards. Mumbai had recovered after the early fall of Sachin Tendulkar, courtesy an impish knock from Rayudu who counter-attacked initially before settling down, to reach 62 for 2 in seven overs, but were gradually choked by the slower bowlers. In the next six overs, before the second time-out was taken, only 31 runs came with the addition of two wickets.
Things looked desperate for Mumbai but Tiwary looted 17 runs from the 16th over bowled by Jacques Kallis to turn things around. The first delivery, a slower one, was swung over the midwicket boundary; the fourth was bludgeoned to midwicket for a four; and the fifth ran away to fine-leg boundary via an inside-edge. Mumbai had broken free and continued to indulge themselves in the end overs.
Anil Kumble, who, before then, had combined well with Pietersen, handed back the initiative as he conceded 17 runs in the 17th over. It was Tiwary, again, who did the damage. He made use of a freehit to collect a boundary to backward square-leg before flat-batting a six to the straight boundary, as Kumble's visage grew angrier. It was the image of the night.
Pollard joined in the fun right in the end, with his big lofted drives, to further boost Mumbai. Pollard pinged the long-off boundary with two sixes against Vinay Kumar and slugged Dale Steyn over long-on for another six as Mumbai finished off in style. And so, after 41 days of non-stop action, Mumbai entered their first final in the three years of IPL.
Sriram Veera is a staff writer at Cricinfo