Mumbai Indians' last meeting with the Deccan Chargers ended in a fourth straight defeat but the return game provided plenty of cheer, producing their sixth successive win, the best run in the tournament so far. Dwayne Bravo signed off from the IPL with a fine all-round effort, giving Mumbai a great chance of making the semi-finals.
Mumbai relied on a combined performance rather than individual brilliance: Sanath Jayasuriya's early blast set the tone before a counterattacking 54-run stand between Bravo and Abhishek Nayar boosted the total.
Deccan didn't have much of a chance at 20 for 3 and even Venugopal Rao's valiant 57 couldn't make much of a difference. With their ninth defeat [including all five at home], Deccan's chances of making the semi-finals are over - even remote mathematical chances won't be spoken of anymore.
Like many of their earlier defeats, Deccan weren't completely outclassed. Unlike the Bangalore Royal Challengers, they haven't appeared listless but they haven't managed to seize the big moments.
Deccan's decision to field appeared to have backfired when Jayasuriya thundered a 15-ball 36, including laying into his fellow countryman Nuwan Zoysa for 19 off his first over, but Shahid Afridi, full of energy and verve, gave them a chance.
He's had a relatively quiet tournament so far but was full of energy here: snapping up Sachin Tendulkar and Dominic Thornely and clinging on to a sensational catch, to dismiss Robin Uthappa, inches within the boundary line. But, with Mumbai wobbling at 96 for 4, the Deccan bowlers couldn't put the foot down on the pedal.
Lot of the credit must go to Nayar and Bravo, who showed the value of good footwork: Nayar regularly sashayed down the track to loft the spinners through the on side while Bravo simply shuffled across smartly before lifting the ball with quicksilver wrists. They finally broke the shackles against Afridi - whose first three overs cost just nine - spanking him for 14 in the 16th over, surging the run-rate to eight an over. Nayar took on Zoysa soon after and Mumbai were on their way to a competitive score.
Mumbai's bowling was characterised by canny medium-pace and outstanding catching. In Shaun Pollock's absence, Bravo led the way with the ball too. Afridi's fine day didn't continue with the bat, though: he attempted to thump the first ball he faced over the covers for six but could only marvel at Thornely running back from point to snaffle a sharp catch.
Adam Gilchrist struggled against a probing Ashish Nehra, who varied both his length and pace wonderfully, while getting the ball to move away off the track. He ended wicketless but played a big part in piling on the pressure. Dilhara Fernando was to reap the rewards soon: he surprised Gilchrist with a short one that was sliced to third man before Rohit Sharma missed a well-disguised slower one that rapped him plumb in front. With two wickets in two balls, he had pretty much sealed the match.
Venugopal, who surprisingly picked up two wickets with his part-time offspin, continued his habit of coming up with a fighting knock in a lost cause. Like he's done in the two previous games, he was like a boy on a burning deck, smashing three sixes and four fours against a mounting asking-rate. Ravi Teja partnered him in a 74-run stand but it would have required something miraculous for the duo to pull it off. Bravo dismissed both within three balls and rounded off a memorable game - four days before facing Australia in the first Test in Kingston.