Sanath bristles to life

Sanath Jayasuriya gave absolutely no options to Mahendra Singh Dhoni.-VIVEK BENDRE

Chennai Super Kings ran into Sanath Jayasuriya at his menacing best and was just blown away. Nandakumar Marar reports.

Sanath Jayasuriya, somehow not able to get cracking in the first seven matches, hit the right wavelength in the eighth. The Indian Premier League opportunity to open with Sachin Tendulkar may have been the inspiration for the Lankan to play his part. Suddenly, as if a switch somewhere had been turned on, his footwork and timing came good; bat speed and brute force did the rest. The Chennai Super Kings bowlers were clubbed for 11 sixes, the bat became a weapon as silken fli cks to midwicket and savage short-arm jabs to point and cover cleared the ropes and soared into the Wankhede Stadium stands.

The Mumbai Indians fans, packed tier upon tier, got busy tracking the ball’s path. Down below, the Chennai fielders watched in awe as the ball flew over their heads and beyond reach. Albie Morkel and Manpreet Gony, one of IPL’s impressive performers, bore the brunt as balls pitched full were flicked nonchalantly. When the bowlers chose the off-stump channel, the bat stayed horizontal and the punch followed, the ball going into the stands between point and cover.

Jayasuriya raced to the IPL’s second fastest century (45 balls) and walked back unbeaten on 114 (48 balls, 11 sixes, nine 4s). Mumbai’s nine-wicket win was the first under Tendulkar, making his debut as player and captain. Chennai’s 156 was overhauled in 13.5 overs, the home team losing just one wicket along the way. “It was a special knock for me from the non-striker’s end. How often do you get to see the shots he played?” asked the Mumbai Indians’ captain afterwards. He had chipped in with 12 in a stand of 82 runs for the first wicket.

The Lankan pointed to skipper Tendulkar as the reason for the special show. “He gives a lot of confidence to everyone. His presence is enough to motivate all of us, including the youngsters,” remarked Jayasuriya, who had earlier partnered Yogesh Takawale in two 40-plus stands for the first wicket before the Mumbai icon’s recovery from groin injury forced a change of openers. Takawale’s energetic display behind the stumps and the fielding in the deep were examples of the enthusiasm within to go all-out for the nominated captain.

Jayasuriya was not put on bowling duty, as Tendulkar opted for pace and swing to rein in the Chennai strokemakers. Shaun Pollock frustrated Suresh Raina and deceived M. S. Dhoni, forcing the Chennai captain to play out the Mumbai all-rounder. Pollock’s control over the line of attack and in angling deliveries away from trigger-happy batsmen resulted in a mere nine runs from four overs.

Six dot balls in a T20 match against Dhoni makes the South African’s feat stand out and it showed the way to young fast bowlers Dhaval Kulkarni and Rohan Raje.

Kulkarni’s utility value in the middle orders allowed Tendulkar to shuffle the attack. Ashish Nehra and Dwayne Bravo finished their quota. Kulkarni sent down the 20th over, felt the jitters and bowled three wides, yet ended up with 3-33 and the captain’s faith intact.

Chennai’s first six came in the 18th over, as the in-form S. Badrinath and Dhoni waded into the attack during a 95-run fifth-wicket stand. Badrinath’s 53 off 33 balls (seven fours, two sixes) and Dhoni’s 43 not out in 35 balls (six fours, one six) gave the visitors a total worth fighting for.

Only three sixes in a score of 156-6 stretching over 20 overs was a measure of the bowlers’ domination on a wicket offering pace and bounce. Then, when Jayasuriya battered Gony and Morkel bowling in T20 turned into a hazardous profession. Joginder Sharma wrested back a little bit of pride by dismissing Tendulkar, Laxmipathi Balaji conceded only nine runs in two overs, but by then the Mumbai Indians were getting ready for the victory celebrations.

THE SCORES

Mumbai Indians v Chennai Super Kings, Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai, May 14, 2008.

Result: Mumbai Indians won by eight wickets. Chennai Super Kings 156 for six in 20 overs (S. Fleming 26, S. Badrinath 53, M. Dhoni 43 n.o., D. Bravo 2-37, D. Kulkarni 3-33) lost to Mumbai Indians 158 for one in 13.5 overs (S. Jayasuriya 114 n.o.).