Mumbai Indians pip Royals to reach IPL final

Kolkata, May 25 (IANS) Mumbai Indians overcame middle over hiccups to carve out a thrilling four-wicket win over Rajasthan Royals off the penultimate ball to move into the Indian Premier League final here Friday.

Mumbai, who reached 169/6 in reply to 165/6 posted by the Royals in the play-off at the Eden Gardens, have made it to the summit round for only the second time in the cash-rich league, and would take on two time champions Chennai Super Kings on Sunday.

The two sides had clashed in the 2010 final, which Chennai won by 22 runs.

The riveting match that went to the wires saw the star-studded Mumbai cruising at 125/1 in 14 overs - with only 41 needed from 36 balls - when they suddenly seemed to lose their way as wickets tumbled in quick succession.

With the 18th over gone, the Mumbai Indians needed a challenging 23 from 12 balls, but Ambati Rayudu (17; 11b 1x4 1x6) plundered 15 runs off Kevon Cooper to ease the pressure, before Harbhajan Singh finished it off with a boundary off the penultimate delivery to carry the Mumbai Indians through.

Big hitting Barbados opener Dwayne Smith (62; 44b, 6x4 2x6) had earlier spearheaded the Mumbai Indians charge, as he demolished the Royals attack by executing some audacious strokes.

Smith and Aditya Tare (35; 27 b, 3x4, 2x6) had given a rollicking start to Mumbai with a stand of 55-ball 70.

After Tare fell, Smith and Dinesh Karthik (22; 17 b 3x4) plundered another 55 from only 30 balls.

But the script saw a dramatic change soon after, as Karthik, skipper Rohit Sharma, Smith and Kieron Pollard fell in quick succession. But thanks to Rayudu's lusty hittings, Mumbai managed to have the last laugh.

Earlier, led by an unbeaten cameo from keeper-willower Dishant Yagnik, Royals rode on a late batting surge to post a good total.

The unbroken seventh wicket partnership of 57 in only 27 balls by Yagnik (31; 17b 5x4) and Brad Hodge (19; 20b 2x4) allowed the Royals to gallop to a sizeable total after they were put on the backfoot by the Mumbai bowlers who claimed wickets at regular intervals.

Opting to bat first Royals made a steady as skipper Rahul Dravid played some fluent shots to top score for his side with a 37-ball 43 studded with seven fours.

Faced with some incisive bowling by Mumbai led by spinner Harbhajan Singh, Royals kept losing wickets at regular intervals to be at 110/6 in the 16thover.

As getting restricted to an underpar score loomed large, Rajasthan's last match hero Hodge and Yagnik came to the party scoring 55 runs in the last 4 overs to achieve a handsome total.

Stuart Binny 27 (17b 3x4 1x6), and Ajinkya Rahane 21 (18b 3x4) were the other contributors for Rajasthan.

Bowling the last over speedster Lasith Malinga conceded 18 runs including two extremely wide deliveries.

Harbhajan 3/23 and Kieron Pollard 2/6 were the most successful bowlers for the Mumbai outfit.

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