Mumbai Indians beat Chennai Super Kings in the first qualifier to book a berth in the IPL final, which will played on Sunday this week.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni couldn’t bail out Chennai Super Kings on Tuesday. (BCCI)
Something happened in the 13th over of Chennai Super Kings’ innings that turned the game in the short term towards them, and in the long term towards Mumbai Indians. The short-term momentum swing was a tactical error in choosing off-spinner Jayant Yadav to bowl to MS Dhoni. The advantage was the first evidence of dew, and its possible effect on the chase later.
It wasn’t overtly bad, not that the ball was unable to grip but just enough to ensure the pitch wouldn’t turn into a minefield. The surface quickened up a bit and batting in the chase wasn’t treacherous as it threatened to be until that point in the game. Chennai would regret the shot selection at the start from Faf du Plessis, Shane Watson and Suresh Raina on what was a tacky pitch at that point.
Now, to the error without which Mumbai might well have chased 20 runs fewer. One could understand the intent. Dhoni was new to the crease and is usually a procrastinator and so perhaps, Rohit Sharma felt he could squeeze in a quiet over. But Dhoni, who chooses bowlers to attack, realised that this was the moment to go for it. Fifteen runs came in that over and Chennai started to press ahead.
But first Rahul Chahar dragged back things in the 16th over (just three runs) and though Lasith Malinga was tonked by Dhoni for two sixes in the 19th over, Jasprit Bumrah ensured there wouldn’t be any batting fireworks in the last over.
Suryakumar Yadav and Ishan Kishan batted with a lot of maturity to forge an 80-run stand. (BCCI/IPL)
Chahar tightens the noose
The credit for Mumbai’s outstanding bowling effort, though, has to go to Chahar, the leg-spinner. He has been an exception among leggies in this tournament. Where most others have relied a lot on googlies, he hasn’t. Not that he spins his leg-break a great deal – though on this pitch he certainly did on a few occasions to drop doubts in batsmen’s minds – but he can almost come across as a front-of-the-hand bowler. One of those leggies who squeeze out the ball, have great accuracy as they don’t quite release it in the conventional wristy fashion, and also because of it, he can keep the trajectory flat(ish) naturally. All those three traits: trajectory, length and accuracy come naturally to Chahar because of the way he bowls. He doesn’t have to expend energy to change his approach, unlike a few others.
More often than not, he starts with back of length and du Plessis should have expected that. But he went for a cut without proper transfer of body weight or balance, and cut it straight to backward point. Soon, Chahar started to use the track to turn a few leg-breaks, kept the batsmen quiet before he produced a cracker to take out Chennai’s best batsman of the night M Vijay.
Suryakumar Yadav anchored the chase for the visitors. (IPL)
The thing with Vijay, unlike any other Indian batsman or even in the world, on turners, is that he plays almost as if it’s not a turner. He would keep going for his shots, trust his hands to make last-minute adjustments. Occasionally, he would throw in the sweep. That’s how he would get out, though. He went for a drive – not a shot to play on this track of course but considering how well he was playing until then, he probably thought, why not? But he missed it by miles as he wasn’t to the pitch and the ball broke away sharply to leave him stranded as he stumbled out to hold balance.
Not that Chahar was waging a lone battle as he got wonderful support from Krunal Pandya. Unlike most left-arm spinners in this format, on his best days, he doesn’t stick to just one line. A batsman can’t relax against him or premeditate as he keeps tweaking his lines – from middle and leg to outside off, and yet again, he turned in a smart performance. Chennai were 35 for 3, and 65 for 4 when Vijay fell and though Dhoni tried his bit, Chennai couldn’t push on to a strong total.
A double-strike by Imran Tahir in the 16th over created some excitement and infused hope in the Chennai camp. Dhoni was seen giving a real serious sermon in the team huddle during the strategic timeout at the end of that over. Tahir had taken out Ishan Kishan and Krunal, but Kishan had by then played a superb hand. He is a confident batsman, and has the shots to score even on a pitch that aids turn. He plays the conventional, reverse and slog sweep, and creates his own length by moving in the crease. He is quick to pull anything short and isn’t tied to one side of the pitch.
Suryakumar Yadav is a good player against spin and another one who trusts his attacking instincts. In the last year or so, he has almost mirrored his batting technique to that of Rohit Sharma – in the way he stands still, picks up his bat at stance, and generally listens to his urges. He came in at 21 for 2 after the exit of the openers and not only infused calmness but also kept the score ticking with his positive play. There was turn in the pitch but it was made a tad easier by the quickening of the pitch after the 13th over of the first innings.