Ricky Ponting dropped himself in favour of Mitchell Johnson and it worked as Mumbai Indians put in a vastly improved performance to beat Kolkata Knight Riders by five wickets in the Pepsi IPL at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata on Wednesday (April 24) night. The win was Mumbai's fourth in seven games while Kolkata, the defending champions, slumped to their fifth defeat in seven matches.
After Kolkata posted a competitive 159 for 6 upon choosing to bat, Mumbai replied with 162 for 5, Ambati Rayudu bringing up the winning boundary with a ball to spare. (Stats from the match)
The wisdom of opening the bowling with an offspinner, Harbhajan Singh, against Yusuf Pathan was unfathomable and Pathan made the most of the unexpected gift. The boundary off the first delivery was streaky, edged past slip, but then came two swept fours and a six over long-on. The next ball was taken for a single but it was off a no-ball and Gautam Gambhir sent the Free Hit for a six over midwicket. (Also see: Match in pics)
In all, 26 came off that over and though Pathan fell soon after, caught by Harbhajan at slip off Johnson, Gambhir and Jacques Kallis kept things going, the fifty of the innings coming up in 4.1 overs. Things changed once Pragyan Ojha came into the picture, so much so that the 41-run partnership between Gambhir and Kallis took up 41 balls. As the pressure built, Ojha accounted for both. Gambhir sent an outside-edge to cover after being beaten in the flight and Kallis, dropped by Johnson when on 22, holed out in trying to up the ante.
A capacity Eden crowd, which was on the throes of ecstasy when Pathan was strutting his stuff, had gone completely quiet by this stage. And though Ojha had been bowled out by the 12th over, Kolkata were stuttering with the scoreboard reading 112 for 3 after 15 overs.
It took Manoj Tiwary, with a slogged four and a six against Yuzvendra Chahal in the 16th over, to get things moving again. Eoin Morgan's six-four combination against Johnson, before he fell miscuing a pull to midwicket off the same bowler, cranked things up further. Kolkata looked good for 170-odd at this stage, till Lasith Malinga came good in the last over - two wickets, both yorkers that knocked leg stump off the ground, and just three runs conceded.
Then came the big moment when Sachin Tendulkar, on his 40th birthday, walked out to begin the Mumbai reply, but Sunil Narine was around to poop the party. Tendulkar managed only a six-ball two before Narine turned one through bat and pad to knock middle stump back.
The early part of the Mumbai innings was all about Dwayne Smith, Tendulkar's opening partner. Smith was particularly harsh on Iqbal Abdulla, while Sachithra Senanayeke fared only comparatively better, as Smith brought up his half-century in just 34 balls. Smith was 37 when Mumbai reached their fifty in the seventh over. By the Mumbai had reached 79 after 10, Smith was on 61 despite having lost Dinesh Karthik along the way.
The chase was well on track but Kolkata had used up only one of Narine's overs till then. And Narine provided the breakthrough straightaway when he returned in the 11th over, getting Smith to mistime a heave and Brendon McCullum, on as a substitute for Kallis, took a tumbling catch that ended in his lap at extra cover. Narine, bowling beautifully, then had Rohit Sharma, who played well for 34, caught and bowled.
But well as Narine and L Balaji bowled, with Senanayeke having an off day and Kallis missing, Mumbai were favourites, even with ten runs needed off the last over bowled by Rajat Bhatia. And though Kieron Pollard was dismissed off the first ball, Harbhajan atoned for his poor show with the ball, hitting a big six as Mumbai sealed the win with one ball to spare.