Sarabjit Singh starred in a last-over thriller to power the Chandigarh Lions to victory. It was a strange match, though. It was decided in the last over but it needn't have to come to that. The Mumbai Champs ambled leisurely to 135 and Chandigarh threatened to throw away the game to Nathan Astle's gentle medium-pace before the aggressive Sarabjit guided them home through the tense final overs.
They needed eight runs from the last over bowled by Ranjit Khirid. Daryl Tuffey took a single off the first, Sarabjit missed the second, Khirid hurled the next one wide before Sarabjit settled the issue with a savage hit over wide midwicket. Sarabjit had earlier done the repair job along with Andrew Hall, who fell in the penultimate over after a quick 56-run partnership.
They joined hands at 70 for 6 and consolidated initially with singles and twos. And unlike the rest, they had a plan. Hall rotated the strike while Sarabjit attacked. With 49 needed in 34 balls, Sarabjit slammed Johan van der Wath for a four and a six to the on side before picking two boundaries off Khirid in the next over. The required rate dipped to manageable levels and Sarabjit got it to almost run-a-ball with a big six over cover in the 18th over. But Michael Kasprowicz pumped up the pressure in the next as two wickets fell. Hall missed a drive and tried to steal a single but was caught short of the crease by the alert keeper. Amit Uniyal was the next to go, undone by a slower one.
However, for the most part, Sarabjit and Hall had batted with common sense, a rare commodity in today's game. Matthew Elliott got the chase up and running with some typically gorgeous cover drives and feisty pulls but Chandigarh contrived to lose wickets at other end. Even the experienced Dinesh Mongia lost the plot, lofting Astle straight to long-off. Elliott too joined the suicide party, holing out to deep point, leaving Chandigarh struggling at 54 for 4. Chris Cairns too was guilty of doing the same: He hit Astle for a six and a four but fell trying to go for another big one in the same over.
But fortunately for Chandigarh, Mumbai were worse. Chandigarh's bowling wasn't especially threatening but Mumbai meandered along at a leisurely pace. They too kept losing wickets regularly to ordinary deliveries: Astle chipped straight to cover, Raviraj Patil flicked to midwicket, Hasan Raza didn't offer a shot to a straight delivery, and the list goes on. Only Kiran Powar offered some resistance. He pushed the spinners around for singles and got a few boundaries when the seamers erred in line and length. But no one took the attack by the scruff of the neck, which was highlighted by the fact that Cairns employed eight overs of gentle spin from TP Singh and Dinesh Mongia. All in all, it was an odd night of cricket.
Sriram Veera is a staff writer at Cricinfo