Kieron Pollard finally lived up to his bumper signing with a brutal innings that undermined what, for the most part, had been a spirited performance from Delhi's bowlers, and confirmed Mumbai's place in the final four. His 13-ball 45, laced with five sixes, powered Mumbai to a challenging score to which Delhi, despite their power-packed line-up, failed to measure up. The 39-run defeat leaves Delhi tied with at least three other teams on 12 points from 12 games, leaving no margin for error from now in their aim to reach the semi-final.
On a track that was aiding movement, spin and bounce, Delhi, who had kept Mumbai on a leash for much of their innings, faltered badly at the death. And when David Warner and Virender Sehwag had blazed away in their chase, they squandered the early edge despite reprieves offered by Mumbai's fielders.
In what proved to be the match-turning event, Gautam Gambhir bestowed medium-pacer Andrew McDonald with the responsibility of bowling the last over of Mumbai's innings. Facing him was Pollard, who had looked adept against pace but lacked conviction against the spin of Sarabjit Ladda, whom he had edged and miscued in his previous over. Mumbai, despite their acceleration, could still have ended with a below-par total but McDonald doled out two full tosses and a short delivery that were dismissed for sixes in an over that fetched 25, taking Mumbai's tally in the last five to 75.
Warner had redressed the damage somewhat, by putting Delhi's chase on course at the start. He targeted Zaheer Khan in the second over, taking his right foot out of the way and hammering two fours and six and followed by smacking Dilhara Fernando for consecutive fours before being undone by his go-to ball, the split-finger slower delivery.
The same delivery almost accounted for Sehwag, who was dropped by Ali Murtaza, and when Gambhir was let off by Pollard in the sixth over, it appeared Mumbai would struggle to defend their target. The pair had begun the IPL on a high, playing crucial roles in enabling Delhi take an early lead in the tournament, but their performances had tapered off thereafter. The track had slowed down but that had little to do with their dismissals, which happened in quick succession. Gambhir spooned a catch back to Harbhajan Singh, and an attempt at an impossible second run ended Sehwag's stay in the eighth over.
Delhi had raced to 69 at the end of the Powerplay, their highest this IPL, but lost five wickets for 22 runs in 31 balls to drift out of contention thereafter. Murtaza made up for his lapse in the field by snaring AB de Villiers and Dinesh Karthik with arm balls, and Pollard, who had helped run Sehwag out, added one more, getting rid of Paul Collingwood.
The capitulation did little justice to what had been a largely disciplined effort from Delhi's bowlers. Tight lines and mostly accurate lengths, backed up by some movement and bounce, ensured the big shots were kept at bay for most of Mumbai's innings.
There were only two intended boundaries struck in the Powerplay, as Tendulkar opted for a game of steady building and leaving enough ammunition in store for the late surge. Tendulkar looked busy during his innings, driving Amit Mishra inside out and attempting to late-cut and paddle McDonald. Despite the steady progress, the boundaries were cut off, and he was caught at extra cover. Mumbai, at the halfway stage in their innings, had limped to 66 for 2, their slowest start in the tournament.
Ambati Rayudu and Saurabh Tiwary, Mumbai's finds this tournament, showed more desperation, breaking a 28-ball boundary drought. Tiwary was more aggressive, smoking two sixes and a four before being deceived by a slower delivery from Pradeep Sangwan to be bowled.
But the much-needed release came in the 16th over, as JP Duminy scored three consecutive fours off Mishra, and Pollard mixed craftiness with power, mistiming a ball for six and scooping Ashish Nehra over the ropes behind fine leg. Aiming for the blockhole, Delhi's bowlers often erred, gifting full tosses that were treated aptly by Pollard, and his assault on McDonald more than compensated for Mumbai's travails for much of the innings.