MI’s garden of eden

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Chennai Super Kings suffered a heartbreaking loss for a second year in succession in the IPL final, going down to the Mumbai Indians by 23 runs at the packed Eden Gardens here on Sunday. CSK lost last year’s final to Kolkata Knight Riders while Mumbai had finished as the second best to the Men in Yellow in the 2010 final.
Defending 148, MI coasted home by a comfortable 23 runs after their bowlers had reduced Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s team to 57/7 by the 11th over. CSK’s eventual score of 125 owed a great deal to their captain who came in too late to significantly influence the game, but finished with an unbeaten 63 (45b. 3x4, 5x6).
Bowling first up, Lasith Malinga rocked CSK with the wickets of in-form CSK opener Michael Hussey and the dangerous Suresh Raina off successive deliveries. Mitchell Johnson and Rishi Dhawan struck crucial blows too, seeing off S. Badrinath and Dwayne Bravo. From that point, it was always going to be an uphill slog for the batting side, and in the end it was beyond the reach of the two-time champions.
Earlier, Mumbai Indians rode on Kieron Pollard’s unbeaten 60 off 32 balls to post a respectable 148/9 despite a nervous start, having lost their top three wickets inside the first four overs.
The big-hitting Pollard and Ambati Rayudu however, gave their bowlers a target to defend with their charge.
For Chennai, Albie Morkel (2/12) did the early damage while Bravo (4/42), with regular wickets in the second half of the innings, kept MI’s progress in check.
Dhoni opened with Mohit Sharma and the youngster responded by removing the in-form man Dwayne Smith on the fourth ball itself.
Dinesh Karthik edged Mohit’s final ball of the over from between a wide slip and the keeper for a boundary but CSK did not have to wait long for their second wicket.
Morkel rattled the off-stump of Aditya Tare on the seventh ball of the innings to reduce Mumbai to 8/2 leaving their remaining batsmen to first do a repair job. But with skipper Rohit Sharma’s wicket, caught and bowled by Morkel, Mumbai seemed to wilting under the pressure.
After gaining the upper hand early on, Dhoni employed a 6-3 off-side field to choke the flow of runs and push the Mumbai batsmen to try and force the pace as they reached 34/3 in the powerplay.
Mumbai crossed the 50-run mark after nine overs even as Mohit bowled out his quota for an impressive 1/26. The first strategic time-out brought more agony for MI as Karthik played on to a delivery by Chris Morris leaving his side at a nervy 52/4 even before the halfway stage of the innings with Rayudu and Pollard in the center.
Pollard was welcomed to a huge cheer by the crowd and he began in right earnest with a boundary. The Rayudu-Pollard partnership brought a balance to the innings taking the score to 100/4 from 15 overs. However, Rayudu was back in the dug-out in the first ball after the second time-out by Bravo (100/5).
Harbhajan hit three boundaries, two of behind the wicket in unconventional fashion, in 18th over which brought the maximum runs in an over for MI, 17, before he became Bravo’s second victim.
Morris bowled a brilliant penultimate over conceding only six before Bravo came close to mopping up the innings with two wickets in the last over. Pollard was getting frustrated being left stranded at the non-strikers end on 48 but extracted the maximum from the last two balls with sixes to complete a well-deserved half-century.

***
Kolkata comes alive for final
Days after the feeble response to Qualifier 2 between the Mumbai Indians and the Rajasthan Royals, raising question marks over the waning popularity on the cash-rich league, fans came in droves for the IPL-6 final between the former and the Chennai Super Kings on Sunday. Many believed that the spot-fixing and betting saga, which has engulfed the league, has left the fans with a sense of being cheated. But on Sunday, all roads to the Eden Gardens were jammed with fans. Tickets which were being offered at a discount the other day went at a premium, as high as double of face value. Earlier in the day, BCCI president N. Srinivasan had said that there was clamour for the tickets and he proved right as almost the every seat in the stadium was taken. — Surender Negi

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