Mumbai masterly even without the master

Kieron Pollard runs out Rahul Dravid in brilliant fashion.

Sachin Tendulkar didn't contribute much with the bat and had to leave the field early with an injury when RCB commenced its chase. But Mumbai Indians took this setback in its stride to post a comprehensive victory. Nandakumar Marar reports.

Mumbai Indians nudged out Royal Challengers Bangalore in the first semi-final even without a major contribution from Sachin Tendulkar. Walking off the field for treatment for an injury — sustained when he went for a diving catch in an attempt to dismiss Rahul Dravid — after three overs, the captain and inspiration watched from the dugout as his bowlers and fielders rallied round stand-in skipper Zaheer Khan, bringing the RCB run chase to a stuttering halt. “It was unexpected, but I had to take the responsibility. It was unfortunate that Sachin had to leave the field early. All is well that ends well,” said Zaheer.

The pain coursing through Tendulkar's right hand (a split webbing that necessitated five stitches) may have been temporarily forgotten amidst the highs on the field. MI performed like a programmed unit to defend the 184-run target. Five bowlers completed their quota of overs, working in unison to dry up the RCB runs on a turning D. Y. Patil Stadium wicket. “Our plan was to be aggressive up front, the first six overs are extremely crucial. The whole team was up for it, running hard and looking for early breakthroughs,” observed Zaheer.

The change of captain happened after high drama. Rahul Dravid edged an outswinger to first slip. Tendulkar caught the ball low and shouted in joy before looking at his bleeding fingers. The RCB opener waited for the umpire's decision, eyes turned to the giant television screen. Replays showed that the ball had not carried to the fielder and by the time Zaheer walked back to his bowling mark, he had been entrusted with the leadership of the side.

Harbhajan Singh got an important breakthrough with a ball down the leg-side to fox Kevin Pietersen charging out for the drive. Ambati Rayudu completed a smart leg-side stumping. The extremely tall Kieron Pollard's awkward bounce troubled the batsmen and he dismissed Robin Uthappa, Virat Kohli and Manish Pandey, the all-round effort embellished by a diving run-out of Dravid earlier.

The quick-thinking Ambati Rayudu stumps Kevin Pietersen in a split-second off Harbhajan Singh.

Lasith Malinga removed in-form opener Jacques Kallis and Dilhara Fernando's variations in pace and line kept runs in check. Makeshift wicketkeeper Rayudu rose to the occasion with two catches and a reflex leg-side stumping.

MI was a charged up side even in the outfield. J. P. Duminy's balancing act on the ropes after completing a high catch to dismiss Pandey showed his presence of mind. And Pollard was quick when flinging his huge frame forward to run out Dravid at the non-striker's end. “You need to be able to handle pressure well. You need to be clear in your mind about the plan of action, stick to it and execute it well. That is how I look at it,” quipped the acting MI captain.

Pollard the batsman was also awesome. The huge West Indian cleared the field three times with amazing timing and effortless power as MI snatched 77 runs in the last five overs. Saurabh Tiwary (52 not out off 31 balls) and Rayudu (40 off 38) had created the platform for Pollard to take off.

Tiwary and Rayudu stuck around against Kumble and Pietersen, rotating the strike against the RCB spinners and waiting for opportunities to attack the other bowlers. Tendulkar's early exit brought pressure on the sixth wicket pair, but they rose to the occasion once again.

Forced to play the semifinal away from home owing to security reasons, RCB was in the hunt till the 15th over before Pollard elbowed it in the face. And promoting Dravid as opener to marshall the run chase went as per plan till he was run out. MI's first entry into the final was creditable. Getting there without a helping hand from the master made Tendulkar feel proud.


First semifinal: Royal Challengers Bangalore v Mumbai Indians, Dr. D. Y. Patil Sports Academy, Mumbai.

Result: Mumbai Indians won by 35 runs.

Mumbai Indians: S. Dhawan (run out) 12, S. R. Tendulkar c Taylor b Steyn 9, A. M. Nayar c Kumar b Pietersen 22, A. T. Rayudu c Kallis b Steyn 40, J. P. Duminy c Pietersen b Kumble 3, S. S. Tiwary (not out) 52, K. A. Pollard (not out ) 33, Extras (lb-2, w-9, nb-2) 13. Total (for 5 wkts; 20 overs) 184.

Fall of wickets: 1-11, 2-29, 3-68, 4-77, 5-144.

Royal Challengers bowling: Praveen Kumar 3-0-29-0, Steyn 4-0-43-2, Vinay Kumar 2-0-25-0, Kallis 2-0-25-0, Kumble 4-0-30-1, Pietersen 4-0-20-1, Kohli 1-0-10-0.

Royal Challengers Bangalore: J. H. Kallis c Rayudu b Malinga 11, R. Dravid (run out) 23, K. P. Pietersen st Rayudu b Harbhajan Singh 19, R. V. Uthappa c Dhawan b Pollard 26, L. R. P. L. Taylor (not out) 31, V. Kohli c Rayudu b Pollard 9, M. K. Pandey c Duminy b Pollard 5, P. Kumar b Harbhajan Singh 1, R. Vinay Kumar b Malinga 8, D. W. Steyn b Fernando 5, A. Kumble (not out) 1, Extras (lb-2, w-7, nb-1) 10. Total (for 9 wkts; 20 overs) 149.

Fall of wickets: 1-24, 2-47, 3-81, 4-81, 5-97, 6-108, 7-118, 8-134, 9-146.

Mumbai Indians bowling: Zaheer Khan 4-0-34-0, Fernando 4-0-28-1, Malinga 4-0-24-2, Harbhajan Singh 4-0-44-2, Pollard 4-0-17-3.