Mumbai Indians made the most of a second bite at the cherry, overcoming a serious late-innings meltdown to earn a shot at Chennai Super Kings in the final of Pepsi IPL 2013.
In a fascinating contest of ebbing fortunes which started more than an hour late due to rain, Mumbai managed, just about, to overcome a stirring challenge from Rahul Dravid's brave Rajasthan Royals, squeaking home by four wickets with one delivery to spare in Qualifier 2 at the Eden Gardens on Friday (May 24) night.
Harbhajan Singh, who had played a part in each of the first five dismissals when Rajasthan had opted to bat first, smashed Shane Watson over cover for the winning runs as Mumbai finished on 169 for 6 in 19.5 overs in response to Rajasthan's 165 for 6, courtesy a late charge by Dishant Yagnik and a forgettable day in office for Lasith Malinga.
Aditya Tare matched Smith for style and substance during an even opening stand of 70 as Mumbai, poor chasers this season, began brightly. The normally parsimonious James Faulkner and Watson frittered away much of the advantage given by Vikramjeet Malik, who bowled a wonderful stump-to-stump line. Rajasthan also had a horrible day in the field - there were misfields galore and more than the odd overthrow - so Mumbai weren't really under any great pressure.
With their two lead spinners unavailable, there was a touch of sameness to the Rajasthan attack. Mumbai were running away with it when Kevon Cooper produced the breakthrough, forcing Tare to chip a slower one to long-on. Dinesh Karthik batted like a dream while Smith alternated between silken touch and brute power, their partnership of 55 in just 30 deliveries taking Mumbai to within 41 of victory with 35 deliveries left.
If there is one characteristic Rajasthan have portrayed this season, it has been a never-say-die attitude. Most teams would have given up the goat at 125 for 2, but Rajasthan kept plugging away. Sensing nerves in the Mumbai camp, they ate into the middle order. Mumbai lost 4 for 16 in 21 deliveries including Smth for an excellent 62, and the match was in the balance, 25 needed off 15 and the big hitters all gone.
Brad Hodge put Ambati Rayudu down with 15 needed in nine deliveries, and the game turned there. Rayudu was bowled in the last over with six required, but Mumbai scraped over the line.
The Rajasthan innings had meandered along for more than the first three-fourths as the middle order failed to make the most of a solid start by Dravid and Ajinkya Rahane. Dravid was the early aggressor, picking Mitchell Johnson off - then ticking him off for needless verbal - for three fours in his first two overs, and Rahane followed suit with a couple of beautifully timed boundaries off the same bowler.
Rajasthan were poised to kick on at 44 without loss on a surface that had a little more pace than when Eden had hosted Kolkata Knight Riders earlier in the season. However, the introduction in the seventh over of Harbhajan put a spoke in the wheels as not only did they lose momentum, but also lost wickets in a clutch.
Harbhajan bowled Rahane round his legs, then elicited a top edge off a lame sweep from Watson that was neatly pouched by Rohit Sharma. In the next over, Sanju Samson was completely foxed by a slower one from Malinga for Harbhajan to take another very good catch off a steepling skier.
The fall of wickets meant Dravid had to keep aggression in check, but Stuart Binny more than made up for it as he took a liking to Pragyan Ojha. The pair was just beginning to assert itself when Harbhajan - who else - evicted Dravid to a very good catch at mid-wicket by Rohit, diving in front of him. Binny and Cooper fell in the space of three deliveries to Kieron Pollard, and at 108 for 6 in the 16th over, Rajasthan appeared to have sold themselves short.
Yagnik, though, had other ideas. Quickly sussing out that Hodge was struggling for timing, Yagnik switched on his A game, first targeting Malinga, then ruining Rishi Dhawan's figures with a sustained onslaught. Mumbai completely went to pieces as the last three overs yielded 46 and the last from Malinga leaked 18, including a beamer that landed nearly 15 yards wide of the match pitch and a wide that would have done Steve Harmison proud. Yagnik totally dominated the unbroken seventh-wicket stand of 57 at better than two runs a ball, providing Rajasthan with the final flourish they so desperately needed, even if it was Mumbai who had the last laugh.