Late charge gets Mumbai past Punjab

Mumbai wins by four wickets

Scorecard | Action in images

MOHALI: Thirty-two runs are needed from two overs. Piyush Chawla, who until then has been a picture of parsimony, ambles in to bowl to Robin Peterson. Punjab are overwhelming favourites. Mumbai Indians are rank outsiders, but as the first delivery leaves Chawla’s palm it’s the last moment in the game that the equation would remain tilted so.

Peterson reverse-sweeps and switch-hits fours on the first two balls, before hurting Punjab with a lethal six over mid-wicket. A single follows, giving the strike to Ambati Rayudu, who does what? – cream consecutive maximums over long-on and long-off, taking the total from Chawla’s over to 27 and Mumbai’s requirement from the last to just five.

A thrilling four-wicket win for Mumbai results, despite Azhar Mahmood’s economic bowling, despite David Hussey’s first innings half-century, despite Harbhajan Singh’s bizzare bowling decisions, and despite Parvinder Awana’s double-strike, including the marauding Rohit Sharma, in the 18th over of the chase.

But more on Harbhajan. Among the many things he is called, a thinking man is certainly not one of them. On Wednesday evening at Mohali - a ground he is well acquainted with – he opened the bowling with South Africa left-arm spinner Peterson, who conceded just three to Punjab’s openers after the home team elected to bat.

That was the only over Peterson was entrusted with, as Clint McKay and R.P. Singh let loose a flurry of short balls to allow the batsmen off the hook. Eventually, the home side, which was just about getting by on 79-3 in the 13th over, posted a competitive 168 in 20 overs – a score more threatening that it appeared to be considering the relative slowness of the surface.

Punjab reached the total thanks to the two Davids – skipper Hussey (60, 48b) and South African Miller (34, 17b) – who combined for 89 runs in just 43 deliveries. Hussey reached his fifty in 30 balls, and changed gears again as the last five overs gained Punjab 68.

Munaf Patel bore the brunt of the assault, his last two overs costing 32 as Miller clubbed sixes to end Punjab’s innings on a high. James Franklin, who too bowled a solitary over earlier in the day and dismissed a subdued Shaun Marsh (while conceding just five) did not return to bowl – another point of distress in Harbhajan’s resource management.

Although a steady start and Rohit’s fireworks threatenend to spoil Punjab’s party, the veteran Azhar Mahmood came in each time and pegged Mumbai back. The former Pakistan player dismissed both openers – Sachin Tendulkar and Franklin – in consecutive overs, and then took Rohit’s catch when the batsman was threatening to steal it away from Punjab.

Rohit’s 30-ball 50 came at a time the required rate hovered around the 12-an-over mark. His departure was followed in the same over by Harbhajan’s, but Rayudu and Peterson unleashed a deluge of bit hits to garner an important away win for Mumbai.