Pollard the differentiator as Mumbai beat Chennai

GAME 5: Dhoni's big-hitting in vain.

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It was one of Dhoni's best knocks, but today was Pollard's day.

SUMMARY: A low-scoring match at the Chidambaram Stadium pivoted around two innings. For the Mumbai Indians, it was Kieron Pollard’s unbeaten 51. For the Chennai Super Kings, it was a magnificent 51 off 26 balls by their captain MS Dhoni.

Against all odds, Dhoni’s big-hitting brought Chennai near a win after they had collapsed to 97-6 chasing 149. Twelve runs were needed off the final over by Munaf Patel. Dhoni swung the first ball to deep midwicket. It seemed certain to go for six when out of no where, Pollard came running in, leapt high and completed an improbable catch.


UN-SACHIN-LIKE CONDUCT?

Anything Sachin Tendulkar does can have a seismic effect on the cricket world. Today, he was dismissed first ball by Dirk Nannes. Replays revealed the LBW decision by umpire Vineet Kulkarni to be clean. But Tendulkar seemed disgusted. Was there an inside edge? Tendulkar put on the sort of show you’d never associate with him: he threw his head back, yelled ‘Come on’, grumbled a little more about it with his captain Ricky Ponting, and walked back shaking his head.

Meanwhile, Kulkarni took some notes and smartly stepped away from the wicket. Who’d want to be in the path of Tendulkar in a foul mood. It was the second tight call that had gone against him in consecutive games. But will there be a case of dissent raised against Tendulkar? We will know shortly.


BOUNCING PONTING
It’s the week of rookie seamers. Mumbai’s Jasprit Bumrah dismissed Virat Kohli in his first IPL over. Earlier today, Rajasthan Royals’ Rahul Shukla dismissed Mahela Jayawardene, also in his first IPL over, but that was mostly due to Ajinkya Rahane’s superlative catch.

In this game, Ankit Rajpoot had a first IPL wicket and what a wicket it was too. He dismissed Ponting - off a bouncer no less, which the Mumbai captain miscued to the wicketkeeper. Rajpoot is probably going to stay up all night today replaying the dismissal in his head.


POLLARD DELIVERS


Mumbai have had this irrational habit of sending out Kieron Pollard too late to bat in the innings. It almost suggests the team has little faith in the innings-building skills of the big-hitting Trinidadian. This was most famously displayed in the 2010 IPL final when the game was practically decided by the time Pollard came out to bat lower than Harbhajan Singh.

Today, though, Pollard had plenty of time to build a nice, long T20 knock. Mumbai were 59-4 when he came out, and slipped to 83-6. Pollard had 12 overs to bat. He began with a couple of fours off his Trinidad mate Dwayne Bravo and then unleashed some sixers against Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja. It was just the third IPL fifty for the man who caused a stir back in 2010 over his auction price.

NO LOVE LOST

Bravo had needled Pollard quite a bit in one of their Champions Trophy encounters. There was no love lost between the two here. Pollard smashed a straight drive at Bravo, who collected it and threatened to throw it back. Bravo then shared some words with him, and an annoyed Pollard waved his bat at him, telling him to go back and bowl.

Pollard let his bat do the talking, effortlessly clubbing Bravo in the same over for a big six over long-on.

Later, as Bravo was caught behind brilliantly on the second attempt by Dinesh Karthik (having been dropped the previous ball by Ponting despite a fine effort in the covers), he had another exchange of words with Mumbai’s fielders as he left the pitch.

DHONI REIGNS

The equation was a stiff 91 off 58 and Chennai were staring at a rather embarrassing defeat at home. Enter Dhoni. Mumbai, in command of the game, let things slip with some poor bowling. Harbhajan bowled a couple of full-tosses. Pollard bowled some half-volleys and half-trackers. Mitchell Johnson bowled a length ball. Dhoni sent them all to the boundary.

Wickets kept falling at the other end but Dhoni held his cool. There was a lovely byplay between him and Pollard. After being hit for a four and a six, Pollard pulled out of his delivery just to see if the Chennai captain was going to premeditate a shot. Next ball, just at the moment Pollard delivered, Dhoni pulled out of the shot. There were wry smiles all around and the crowd loved the gamesmanship from their captain.

12 were needed off the last over from Munaf Patel. Dhoni, batting on 51, was in what they call The Zone. There was little doubt about who was going to win this battle. And then Pollard plucked the match out of thin air.

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