Mumbai Indians squandered a crucial opportunity to grab a spot in the top four, losing to Deccan Chargers by 19 runs in a see-saw game where they had held the cards for the most part. An unlikely hat-trick by Rohit Sharma, who benefited from some immature shot-selection and accounted for the fall of the threatening JP Duminy, followed up on a pivotal double-strike by RP Singh to remove the explosive pair of Sachin Tendulkar and Sanath Jayasuriya to shut Mumbai out of the game, and consolidate Deccan's position to second place.
The turning point came in the 15th over, after Duminy and Dwayne Bravo had helped get Mumbai's run-chase back on track. A rush of blood at the wrong time resulted in Bravo skying a flighted delivery from Tirumalasetti Suman to long-on, and some injudicious batting by Abhishek Nayar and Harbhajan Singh, who were both bowled by Rohit off successive deliveries, left Duminy with too much to achieve.
Mumbai were dented at the start. A disdainful slice over point, a trademark of Jayasuriya's, in the very first over off Ryan Harris bode ominously for Deccan, but the bowler had his revenge the next over, flinging himself to his right at third man to snap a thick edge from the same batsman. RP's impressive run in the IPL this season won him a place in the Indian squad for the World Twenty20, and as a sign of justification, he castled Tendulkar the next ball with an inswinger.
Pinal Shah was Mumbai's Naman Ojha, and though he displayed little signs of being gifted with sound technique, his enterprising 29, laced with a series of innovative shots, the best of which was a reverse-sweep off Harmeet Singh, relieved the pressure after a shock beginning. Duminy's presence was critical, and he immediately showed signs of intent, picking on anything loose and ensuring the required run-rate was kept within reach by combining his flourish with the natural dabs, nudges and clips that have come to typify his batting.
Shah's dismissal, an inopportune swipe to wide long-on, did little to unsettle Duminy, who picked up pace after the tactical timeout, dispatching Harmeet for two boundaries, one through cover and the other to third man, before pulling Harris wide of deep square leg. With 49 needed off six overs and seven wickets remaining, Mumbai held the edge but three poor shots - Bravo's mindless loft, Nayar's ill-judged paddle and Harbhajan's atrocious slog - swung the match firmly in Deccan's favour. Rohit hammered the final nail in the coffin, having Duminy caught-behind off an attempted sweep on the first ball of the 18th over to complete his hat-trick and seal Mumbai's fate.
Mumbai's batsmen undid a disciplined bowling display by their pace attack, which boasted new inclusions in Dhawal Kulkarni and Rohan Raje, who impressed in their respective spells. Failure up the order had proved crucial in Deccan Charger's stark turnaround after emerging frontrunners in the tournament with four consecutive wins. It had them in trouble again as they struggled to a competitive score on a sluggish pitch.
Adam Gilchrist's decision to bat was motivated by a hard, dry surface which he felt would last out the day, but Deccan did have to contend with an out-of-touch Herschelle Gibbs who was sucked in by an away-swinger from Dhawal to edge a catch to slip, and finish with two ducks in three innings. Suman's excellent bowling effort was preceded by a promising cameo that included two massive sixes off Harbhajan, but was cut short by Bravo. Gilchrist, who had ceded the floor to Suman, threatened to cut loose after his departure with a slog-swept six but failed to curb his frustration with the modest run-rate, swinging across the line to be bowled by an unspectacular, yet accurate Raje.
Rohit was restrained by some tight Mumbai bowling, patching together a laboured innings which only picked up pace when joined by Venugopal Rao, who showed some spunk towards the end with a brisk 28 to take his team to what, in the end, proved an adequate total.
A target of 146 would have raised Mumbai's hopes of breaking into the top four but a suicidal rush by their middle order made that task significantly tougher, leaving them in seventh place.
Siddhartha Talya is an editorial assistant at Cricinfo