The series of last-over finishes continued on Saturday with Mumbai Indians trumping the Chennai Super Kings at the latter’s home ground at Chepauk in yet another close encounter. The match was essentially about two individual brilliant performances, one from either team, neither of which deserved to end up on the losing side, but one did. Even as the batting of both sides collapsed, Kieron Pollard and MS Dhoni stood out for their teams, using their brutal force to great effect to single-handedly keep their teams in the hunt. As mentioned earlier neither knock should have ended up at the losing end, but one did and, unfortunately for Chennai, it was Dhoni’s.
It wasn’t as if Dhoni did not do enough to take his team to a win, but it was just the fact that this was destined to be Pollard’s day. Having taken the game into the last over courtesy some magnificent hitting, Dhoni needed to find a couple of more big hits in the last six balls, off which 12 were needed. He did connect the first ball well, but Pollard took an amazing catch at the deep midwicket boundary to leave the Chennai crowd stunned.
It was as if Pollard had been handed over the midas touch for this particular match. Before taking the catch that won Mumbai the match, Pollard had also dismissed Ben Laughlin first ball to ensure that Dhoni did not have a stable partner during the slog overs. Pollard did leak 40 runs, but that did not matter in the end. His even more significant performance came with the bat earlier in the evening. Mumbai were in all sorts of strife at 83 for 6 in the 12th over, but Pollard pulled Mumbai out of trouble through a measured knock. The contribution of Harbhajan Singh, who made a run-a-ball 21, was also significant.
Few people have matured during the course of the IPL in the manner that Pollard has. Once only known to throw his bat around, on Saturday, he was very much prepared to push the ball around, and hang in for the opportune moments to clear the boundaries. Pollard confidence in his own game was very much evident from the fact that he played a number of dot balls, and yet ended up with a strike rate of exactly 150. He managed to hit four fours and five sixes, which pretty much negated the run-less deliveries he played.
Deep inside, Chennai would know that they shouldn’t have lost the game after reducing Mumbai to 83 for 6. But, even after Pollard’s blitzkrieg, the match was in the balance. Chennai have only themselves to blame as they batsmen played some very poor shots during the start of the innings to put them on the backfoot. There was a hint of arrogance in the manner in which the first few batsmen got out. In the end, Dhoni almost pulled it off, but this was just meant to be Pollard’s day.
Turning point of the game: Pollard’s catch to dismiss Dhoni in the last over. Had the ball got past him, the result of the match might have been different.
--By A Cricket Analyst