The opening combo
With an average of 45-plus, David Warner and Shikhar Dhawan had been the opening partnership of the tournament. Not anymore. Lendl Simmons and Parthiv Patel have emerged as the best opening association, crossing the 50-run mark when it comes to runs per innings.
Simmons and Patel have not only bettered the Sunrisers duo in terms of numbers, but more importantly, in impact as well. If their second hundred-plus partnership in Hyderabad two nights ago had ensured Mumbai Indians sailed into the playoffs without any fuss, they repeated the heroics by putting on 90 against the Super Kings.
The partnership laid the foundation for a big total to justify Mumbai's decision to bat first. Moreover, a lack of early breakthroughs meant perhaps for the first time did MS Dhoni throw the ball to Dwayne Bravo in the middle overs. While the move worked as Bravo broke the stand in the 11th, it left the Trinidadian with only two overs to bowl at the back end.
When Kieron Pollard dug a bail to mark his guard in a trademark West Indian manner, 38 balls had left to be bowled in the Mumbai innings. Super Kings had held the upper hand for the preceding four overs, their longest period of strength in the whole match. If Pollard could bat half the remaining balls, it could end up being the difference between the two teams.
When Pollard was caught off Bravo at long-off in the last over, he had faced two balls fewer than half the allotment, but the damage had been done. Of the first four balls he faced, two sailed into the crowd. But Pollard's audacious touch was amply displayed in his fifth six, struck on the delivery before he was dismissed. Bravo pitched it well outside off but Pollard swung it so hard and flat that the ball cleared the long-on boundary, with most spectators realizing it was a six only after watching Faf du Plessis attempting a futile dive.
Illingworth sets the pace
The IPL has continued to expose mediocre standards of Indian umpires. On Tuesday, English umpire Richard Illingworth joined the ranks by adjudging Dwayne Smith leg before off a Lasith Malinga slower one when the ball was sliding past where fifth stump could have been.
Owing to his New Zealand commitments, Brendon McCullum was missing from the Chennai Super Kings squad. If Chennai Super Kings had to keep the Baz going, Smith had to return to scoring big. Having scored just 72 runs in his last six innings, Smith got off to a cautious start, avoiding an audacious stroke for the first three balls.
On the fourth ball, he didn't pick Malinga's change of pace but more than that was undone by Illingworth's error in judgment. Once pegged back, the Super Kings chase could never manage to hit the top gear, always playing catch-up.
Harbhajan does a Suchith
J Suchith's two wickets in as many balls put Mumbai Indians in firm control of their must-win final league game in Hyderabad two nights earlier. It was Harbhajan Singh's turn to repeat the heroics this time around.
Harbhajan has been one of the silent contributors to Mumbai Indians' resurgence this year but he made a big impression by dismissing Suresh Raina and Dhoni off successive balls. In a high-pressure game, any instance of two-in-two would help the bowling team take a firm grip on the match. When the victims included the most successful batsman in IPL history and the best finisher in limited overs' cricket, Harbhajan's job was more than done.
Had Harbhajan completed a second return catch of the over off the last ball to see Bravo's back, the Super Kings may well have waved the white flag there and then.
Home run reverses the qualifier trend
The four matches of the IPL playoffs are organised by the BCCI-IPL, and not by the hosting franchise. So technically, it wasn't a home game for Mumbai Indians. But the technicality came to zilch as the Wankhede Stadium was a sea of blue almost an hour before the game was to start. The Wankhede crowd, which often acts as a 12th man for Mumbai Indians, played its role to help Mumbai turn the playoff tide against Super Kings.
The paroxysm of noise from the Wankhede crowd usually peaks after 10 pm, when stadium loudspeakers have to be turned off due to a state government regulation. That is when the loud chants of Ma-lin-ngaa and Mumbai, Mumbai [clap, clap, clap] give pangs in the stomachs of visiting teams.
Tuesday was no different. The crowd played its part to help Mumbai Indians buck the playoff trend against Super Kings. Though Mumbai Indians had clinched the 2013 IPL by beating Super Kings in the final, they had failed to win any of their four qualifiers/eliminators against the same opposition.