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Rohit Sharma played a captain's knock as he vindicated his decision to field in a must-win match for Mumbai Indians in his team's last group game of the Champions League Twenty20 against Perth Scorchers at Delhi's Feroz Shah Kotla on Wednesday evening. Mumbai needed to chase down 150 inside 15 overs to qualify for the semi-finals ahead of Otago Volts with a superior run rate, and Rohit and Dwayne Smith ensured that the defending IPL champions got to the target with plenty to spare.
The net result of Rohit and Smith's pyrotechnics was that Mumbai successfully chased down the target for the loss of four wickets in only 13.2 overs. Rohit was named Man of the Match for his 24-ball 51*, but Smith deserves as many plaudits for his part in the improbable win.
Smith got the chase off to a flier as he hit a boundary and a six in the first over of Mumbai's innings bowled by Michael Beer; and then followed it up with another boundary through mid wicket off Jason Behrendorff.
Scorchers' coach Justin Langer had said on Tuesday that he wanted one of his bowlers to do an Eric Hollies to Sachin Tendulkar.
Hollies — an England leg spinner — is remembered for bowling Don Bradman out for a duck in his last Test innings and Langer wanted one of his players to repeat the act on Tendulkar. And, Behrendorff answered his coach's call when he had Tendulkar (0) caught by Sam Whiteman at deep square leg. Tendulkar, who has only scored 20 runs in three innings in the tournament, is still 26 away from 50,000 runs in first-class, List A ant Twenty20 cricket.
Behrendorff also had Glenn Maxwell caught by Brad Hogg at short third man to leave Mumbai Indians in a spot of bother at 34 for 2 in four overs; but here on, it was the Rohit and Smith show as they took the attack to the hapless Scorchers' bowlers and dealt in boundaries and sixes at will. Smith was dismissed when Behrendorff took a stunning catch to deprieve the Mumbai Indians' opening batsman of a well-deserved half-century. Smith hit five boundaries and three sixes in his 25-ball 48.
Smith's departure didn't have any impact on Rohit as he continued his rampage with Kieron Pollard happy to play second fiddle to his in-form captain, who ensured that the asking rate was never a factor in the stiff chase. Pollard (23) was clean bowled by Brad Hogg with victory in sight; and Ambati Rayudu sealed the deal with two consecutive sixes off Ashton Agar.
Earlier, a half-century from Whiteman and his third wicket partnership with Hilton Cartwright lifted Scorchers to 149 for 6.
Scorchers' opening batsmen Ashton Agar and captain Simon Katich made a tentative start on the slow and low Kotla pitch. Agar and Katich each survived a couple of close calls and also played plenty of dot balls as Scorchers plodded to 29 for 0 in the PowerPlay overs.
Agar hit some lovely boundaries during his knock, the best of the lot being his clip shot on the leg side off Nathan Coulter-Nile and a scoop shot off Rishi Dhawan. Agar, who dominated the opening partnership with Katich in terms of balls faced and runs, was given a life on 30 when Dinesh Karthik fumbled a simple stumping chance off Maxwell in the ninth over. Karthik had a horrid day behind the stumps as he struggled to adjust to the low bounce at the Kotla. The reprieve didn't cost Mumbai Indians too much as Agar (35, 40 balls, 6x4) was clean bowled by Pragyan Ojha in the very next over.
Ojha had a poor start to his spell as his first delivery was a short one that Agar to the boundary. But, Ojha had the final laugh as he clean bowled Agar and Katich in the space of three deliveries, to leave Scorchers 57 for 2 at the half-way mark.
The 21-year-old Whiteman, who made his Twenty20 debut in the Champions League T20, was lucky not to be given out LBW when on 2 off a Maxwell delivery that straightened after it pitched on middle stump. Whiteman had another reprieve when he was on 8 courtesy Harbhajan Singh, who dropped a catch at short third man, with Maxwell again being the disappointed bowler.
Whiteman and Cartwright added 58 runs in 5.4 overs for the third wicket to give the much needed impetus to Scorchers' innings. The young pair spoilt Harbahajan's figures in his last over (the 15th of the innings) as the experienced off-spinner leaked 18 runs with Whiteman hitting a six over long on and Cartwright clubbing two boundaries. Harbhajan ended with figures of 4-0-31-0.
Scorchers' Coulter-Nile (3-19), playing for Mumbai Indians in the CLT20, struck a double blow off successive deliveries in the 16th over, as he clean bowled Cartwright (28) and then trapped Ashton Turner plumb in front. Coulter-Nile's over pegged Scorchers back when they were setting themselves up for a score in excess of 150; but Whiteman continued to hit boundaries in the business end of the innings to take the Big Bash team to 149 for 6.
Whiteman got to his half-century with a streaky four in the penultimate delivery of the innings bowled by Dhawan; and finished 51* from 32 balls (6 fours and 2 sixes), but in the end it wasn't enough as the Scorchers return home without registering a win in the tournament.