Who will Mumbai play in the final?

The other finalists, Chennai Super Kings, are in grave danger of a dishonourable exit.

Bhajji's performance was eclipsed by off-the-field IPL drama.

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KOLKATA:
It can be safely assumed that the prime show on Friday night was not the 'Qualifier 2' at the Eden Gardens, but the arrest by Mumbai police of Gurunath Meiyappan - BCCI supremo N. Srinivasan’s son-in-law and a key Chennai Super Kings personnel - in connection with the ongoing IPL spot-fixing scam.

While Mr. Meiyappan was being held at the Crime Branch, Mumbai Indians were dutifully carrying out their job in the second qualifier against Rajasthan Royals. Rohit Sharma’s outfit scraped past the Royals by four wickets to enter the final of IPL-6, a competition now so grievously tarnished by allegations of murky dealings that no amount of righteous scrubbing could erase the taint.

CSK in trouble

And with outcries to banish Chennai Super Kings – the other finalist, by virtue of having won Qualifier 1 earlier – on the rise following the proven involvement of a key member of their management in the fixing imbroglio, would it even even be plausible, in the light of all that’s been unearthed, to expect a straight-forward sporting final on Sunday.

Is Chennai even eligible to participate in the final? Should points gained or lost by other teams to Chennai this season even be considered? What are the chances of the BCCI's 'three rotten eggs' turning out to be a 'dirty dozen', or a 'sleazy score' scattered across the nine franchises? The credibility of the cash-rich league has taken a fatal hit.

All business

Little of this, evidently, was on the mind of Friday night’s winners as they went about their business. Mumbai first tided over aggressive spans of play from Rajasthan to be left facing a 166-run target. Openers Dwayne Smith (62) and Aditya Tare (35) provided a solid platform for launch with a 70-run stand, but a flurry of wickets left Mumbai needing 23 off the last two overs.

Ambati Rayudu, who was crucially dropped by Brad Hodge in the penultimate over, then came to the fore with a timely cameo, and even though he was out, Harbhajan Singh pulled Mumbai over the line with a ball to spare when he pummeled Shane Watson for the winning boundary. Harbhajan had earlier bowled superbly to pick up three wickets.

Bhajji strikes

When Royals elected to bat and skipper Rahul Dravid, the revamped Twenty20 stud that he is, propelled them early on. Dravid struck seven crisp boundaries in his 37-ball 43 as he took charge of the Powerplay, with Ajinkya Rahane (21) playing second fiddle.

Harbhajan Singh was instrumental in ushering in a tight middle phase that cut off the runs and brought Mumbai regular wickets. The Sardaar figured in the first five dismissals: his off-spin claimed Dravid, Rahane and Shane Watson (6), while Sanju Samson and Stuart Binny were held smartly by the once-casual fielder.

It took a late-innings charge by Dishant Yagnik to pull Royals above eight runs-per over. Yagnik was severe on Malina as he improvised to hit boundaries off the slinger’s deadly yorkers, finishing with 31 off just 17 balls. It was this cameo that gained his team 61 in the last five overs.

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