Super Kings wallop Mumbai Indians, enter the Qualifier

M.S Dhoni and Dwayne Bravo incinerate Mumbai

The Stabilizer: Badri did not erupt like Dhoni or Bravo, but his mature 47 brought Chennai back in the game.

| Action in images | IPL-V

BANGALORE: Lucky. Kissed by fortune. Favoured by fate. Whatever! Count Chennai Super Kings out at your own peril. After making the play-offs following a string of fortunate results, the defending champions overcame a disastrous start to defeat Mumbai Indians by 38 runs in the Eliminator at the M. Chinnawamy Stadium on Wednesday night.

Super Kings will next play Delhi Daredevils in the Qualifier - a virtual semifinal - at their stronghold, the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium, on Friday. The winner of that game will meet Kolkata Knight Riders in the final of IPL-V.

On Wednesday, Chennai were sent in to bat by Harbhajan Singh and found themselves in hot water within the first eight balls of the match. They were two down for one run, with M. Vijay and Suresh Raina back in the pavilion, and the ball swinging viciously late, when they engineered a remarkable turnaround.

Super Kings steadied the boat through Michael Hussey (49) and S. Badrinath (47), and then benefited from a jaw-dropping exhibition of power hitting from captain M.S. Dhoni (51, 20bb, 2x6, 6x4) and Dwayne Bravo (33, 14b, 3x4, 2x6). The conclusive assault brought in 105 runs from the last eight overs, as captain cool and Bravo went berserk, adding 73 in just 29 balls and taking Chennai to a gargantuan 187-5.

The most successful IPL franchise then tided over Dwayne Smith’s early fireworks in the chase to trounce Mumbai comprehensively, the chase having virtually ended when the pursuers found themselves five down for less than hundred, all their stars back in the dug out. Bravo had a memorable day in the field, first sparkling with the bat and adding two wickets to his haul when Mumbai took guard.

The Champions League T20 winners were never in the hunt except for a brief period when Smith was going after Ben Hilfenhaus – who had a rare off-day – but when Sachin Tendulkar sacrificed (yes, you read that right!) his wicket for Smith in a brainless run-out, the chase faltered irrevocably, ending in a rash of wickets resulting from the pressures of a sky-high asking rate.

The match was really about what Chennai did when they took first strike. Harbhajan, criticized through the tournament for under-bowling himself, opened proceedings by restricting Hussey and Vijay to just one off the first over.

Vijay continued his indifferent form when he edged Dhaval Kulkarni’s late away swinger to Rohit Sharma at first slip. On the next ball, Suresh Raina went for a drive on the off-side and chopped the ball on to the stumps for a golden duck.

Within the first eight balls of the match, Chennai were on the back-foot in this most critical of matches.  Would they recover from here? Oh yes, and how! Harbhajan followed up his one-run opening over with a maiden to Hussey and the pressure on Chennai mounted, but Hussey and Badri made the best of their chances to resurrect the tattered innings.

Badri edges Kulkarni a couple of times to the boundary and smashed the same bowler to the long on fence. Hussey got off the mark on the ninth ball he faced, but switched gears when R.P. Singh came on to bowl. The Aussie crunched three fours – one of which was chancily feathered wide of first slip – to catch up on his strike rate.

Malinga was introduced and Hussey welcomed him with a four caressed through the off-side. Chennai reached 61 for two in ten overs as Bhajji played around with the bowling changes. But when the skipper came on again to bowl – in the 11th of the innings – he was molested by Badri and Hussey, who clouted a six each and took 19 from the over.

Badri looked good for a fifty in his return game but he skied Kieron Pollard to long-on where he was taken by Rohit for 47. Hussey and Ravindra Jadeja departed soon after, and then began the most brutal phase of the innings as the last eight overs of the innings conceded 105 runs.

Dhoni flicked the first ball he faced to the mid-wicket fence and waded into the flurry of full-length deliveries that Mumbai bowlers offered him. James Franklin was massacred over long-on for the biggest hit of IPL-V – all the way for 112 metres.

The Powerplay hero Kulkarni was clobbered straight past his head. Then the India captain launched into a helicopter shot off Malinga that came to rest in the stands. Dhoni reached his half-century in 20 balls. It was fearless, nerveless hitting as Bravo joined his captain in a carnage that produced 73 runs in just 29 balls. The highlight of Bravo's knock was a 'banana peel' six that he powered, off-balance, against Kulkarni in the last over. What Sooper hitting! Whatay Sooper team! Delhi Daredevils had better watch out.