They say a Twenty20 match can be won in ten minutes of violent batting or inspired bowling. Harbhajan Singh needed only 18 balls when he batted, and just one delivery when he bowled, to win the game for Mumbai Indians. Double-strikes from RP Singh and Pragyan Ojha had reduced Mumbai to 119 for 7, but Harbhajan played a wickedly-entertaining cameo to charge his team to 172. He wasn’t done yet and opened the bowling to remove Adam Gilchrist with his second delivery, dealing the most crippling blow to the Deccan Chargers chase.
They couldn’t out Hashim Amla at all. So India, down to three bowlers and led by an exceptional Harbhajan Singh, found a way around him, leaving him stranded with nine mandatory balls to go and sealing a heart-stopping, series-levelling win that also meant they retained the top spot in the ICC rankings. As was fitting, it was Harbhajan who brought about the final wicket with a slider to the left-hand batsman Morne Morkel, who had put together a 76-minute last-wicket stand with Amla. The final few steps didn’t come easy for India: the last three wickets batted out 53.3 overs to set up a beautiful Test-match finish.
The ghost of batting under the R Premadasa lights was almost buried tonight. Sachin Tendulkar’s master class, an 86th international century which was not far from being his best, nearly became a footnote on a night of punches and counter-punches. Sri Lanka knew being ultra aggressive was the only way of going about this huge chase, and they counterattacked every time a wicket was lost. Thilina Kandamby, batting at No. 7, fell just short of pulling off a heist against India for the second time in his short career, as the early wickets had left him with too much to do.
It took Yuvraj Singh 18 balls to undo 10 overs’ hard work by Bangladesh that had pulled India back after another solid start from Gautam Gambhir and Rohit Sharma. It took Pragyan Ojha five balls to undo their eight overs of keeping pace with a stiff total and eventually India became the first side in this tournament to successfully defend.
The crisp sound from Yuvraj’s bat resonated regularly at Trent Bridge, with sixes flying here and there as India managed 59 runs in their last four overs. Ojha came on and removed Junaid Siddique and Shakib Al Hasan in his first over, after which a promising chase stumbled.
Barring a late scare by Harbhajan Singh , who took 4 for 17, the Delhi Daredevils go into the semi-final with a confidence boosting six-wicket win against the Mumbai Indians. At the toss Virender Sehwag said he wanted to field to give his side some much needed practice chasing. And a fair bit of practice they got, with Sehwag leading the power-hitting top order who stayed ahead of the fairly steep required run-rate.
The spectators at Kingsmead were treated to yet another humdinger as the Rajasthan Royals prevailed by two runs in a see-saw encounter with the Mumbai Indians. Rajasthan were in possession of the game for 14 overs before Sachin Tendulkar and Abhishek Nayar opened out and gave Mumbai hope. It all came down to the final over when Mumbai needed four runs but a combination of some incredible death bowling by Munaf Patel and panic running resulted in three wickets, incredible scenes and a third-place spot for Rajasthan.
For the second time in two meetings between these teams, Kings XI Punjab batted first and scored 119, but unlike the game in Durban, there was no redemption in the field this time as Mumbai Indians swept to an eight-wicket win to move up to 11 points and fourth in the points table. The win was set up by Mumbai’s offspinners – Harbhajan Singh, JP Duminy and Ajinkya Rahane returned combined figures of 4 for 29 in nine overs to launch a stunning comeback. Dwayne Bravo ensured a hiccup-free run-chase with a magnificent unbeaten 70 in an innings full of expansive drives and pulls.
Gary Kirsten, the India coach, says mental fatigue will be his team’s biggest challenge during the World Twenty20 in England next month. The event starts on June 5 but India play their first warm-up game on June 1, just seven days after the IPL ends in South Africa. Kirsten also believes India, the defending champions, will be under added pressure during the ICC tournament but says the team has shown it is capable of handling such situations.
Kolkata Knight Riders made a good attempt at causing possibly the biggest surprise of the season so far but fell short despite smart bowling for most of Mumbai’s innings and a first fifty for them by Brad Hodge, who kept together a chase that threatened to fall away early on.
Mumbai turned the game irreversibly in six overs: the last three of their innings and the first three of Kolkata’s. The main characters in this script were JP Duminy and Zaheer Khan. Duminy’s late assault helped Mumbai scored 42 in the last three overs of an otherwise limp effort and, on the other side of the break, Zaheer removed Kolkata’s openers Chris Gayle and Sourav Ganguly in his first two overs.
Talk about pulling one from out of the hat. Defending a small total Kings XI Punjab’s three-pronged pace attack bowled canny spells to rock Mumbai Indians’ chase, and despite a composed half-century from JP Duminy, Punjab hung on to complete a nerve-wracking three-run victory. Mumbai hardly set a wrong foot forward from the time they lost the toss, striking early through spin and keeping their hands on the jugular through Lasith Malinga’s late strikes, but failed to chase 120. Kumar Sangakkara had kept the innings alive with an important unbeaten 45 with scant support and it proved decisive in the end. Having struck early in the piece the task of bowling the last over, and defend 12 runs, came to Yusuf Abdulla. And what an over it turned out to be.