Royal triumph for Mumbai

Royal triumph for Mumbai

Harbhajan Singh emerged the unlikely hero for Mumbai Indians on Sunday. The off-spinner, who was having a miserable run in the tournament, struck thrice in an over, and spurred his team to Champions League Twenty20 title at the Feroz Shah Kotla on Sunday, giving a fitting farewell to Sachin Tendulkar.

Royals were aggressively pursuing Mumbai’s 202/6 in 20 overs but Harbhajan removed a well-set Ajinkya Rahane (65), Stuart Binny and Kevon Cooper in the 17th over to change the tone and tenor of the match and hand his team a 33-run victory.

The win spoiled the farewell of Royals’s skipper Rahul Dravid, who was playing his last cricket match in any format, but scripted a fairytale end for another legend, Sachin Tendular’s Twenty20 career. It was also Mumbai Indians’second Twenty20 title of the year, having being crown the 2013 IPL champions.

It was a tough chase for the Royals but they batted with such aggression that the small boundaries of Kotla appeared even more shrunken. Despite losing Kusal Periera by the fourth ball of the innings, Rahane and young Sanju Samson (60, 30b, 4x4, 4x6) treated Mumbai attack with such disdain that Royals could well imagine itself near the victory target.

The two spoiled the figures of Mumbai attack, raising 71 runs in the first powerplay, and their 100-run partnership came off 59 balls in just 42 minutes.  Pragyan Ojha broke their 109-run stand when he got Samson caught at third man. Harbhajan did the rest.

Amidst the ruins, Dravid (1) walked in for one last time but his stay was cut short by Nathan Coulter-Nile, who yorked his leg stump in the second ball he faced. The crowd rose to give tribute to the legend,  known for his solid defence. Royals folded up shortly in 18.5 overs and Mumbai was wrapped in a huddle amidst the haze of fireworks.

It was the batting that gave Mumbai the edge. Dwayne Smith (44) and Tendulkar were quick to set the ball rolling with the West Indian pulling a six off James Faulkner in the opening over. Tendulkar joined him with a cracking cover drive in Faulkner’s next. 

Tendulkar’s 35 in the semifinals had generated hope of a bigger knock from the master and the crowd cheered his every move.  The felicity with which Tendulkar hit Watson for two back-to-back boundaries in the fifth over only whetted the appetite to witness more of his craft. He clipped the first ball off the pads down to fine leg for four before piercing the mid-off with a vintage drive.

But Watson swiftly ended the euphoria. In his next ball, the third of the over, Tendulkar’s off-stump was somersaulting, the master looking to drive it straight and missing the line. The stadium rose to pay its tribute, his teammates rushing to give him a guard of honour. Tendulkar (15), still mulling about the dismissal, waved his bat to the crowd, who for years have indulged him with unabashed hero worship.

Praveen Tambe (2-19) and Cooper stifled Mumbai’s run-gleaning to 60/1 in 10 overs and seemed to have tightened the grasp when the leg-spinner, the best bowler for Royals, rocked Smith’s off stump.

But Rohit Sharma, replacing Smith, had other plans. The Mumbai skipper, one of the cleanest hitters of the ball, and in irrepressible form, regenerated Mumbai’s innings during his brutal 14 ball stay that contained three fours and two sixes.

Glenn Maxwell, with his own brand of power-hitting, provided the late blitz and whipped Royals to pieces, the last 10 overs producing 142 runs.

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