|Ground:||Newlands, Cape Town|
|Scorecard:||Chennai Super Kings v Mumbai Indians|
|Player:||MS Dhoni, A Flintoff, AM Nayar, SR Tendulkar|
DateLine: 18th April 2009
If the result of the first match of the Indian Premier Leagueís second season is anything to go by, the plot for this drama may well be different. The backdrop was changed from India to South Africa for reasons known to all, and that seemed to have changed some fortunes too, as Mumbai Indians began far better than they had list time, while Chennai Super Kings began this edition as they had finished the last Ė with a loss.
A sedate holding knock from Sachin Tendulkar after being asked to bat first, followed by some fireworks from Abhishek Nayar, Lasith Malingaís tearaway fast stuff and eight astute overs from Harbhajan Singh and Sanath Jayasuriya ensured that Mumbai began with full marks, as Chennai, chasing the rivalsí 165/7, ended at 146/7 to go down by 19 runs.
Chennai had their moments, especially when the big men Matthew Hayden and Andrew Flintoff were at the crease, and also when skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni took the aerial route towards the end of the innings. But some great slow bowling in the middle of the innings from Harbhajan and Jayasuriya ensured that Chennai were behind the eight ball at the times when it mattered the most. How Harbhajan has developed as a bowler was amply demonstrated in his spell, as he just didnít allow Hayden and Flintoff, two of the biggest hitters in the business, to get on top. His little cat and mouse game with Hayden was especially fascinating and though the off-spinner did get knocked for a six, he had the last laugh, in terms of success rate. Bhajji ended with one for 15 off three overs, while Jayasuriya bowled four overs for 34 runs, but picked up Hayden and the other big man, Jacob Oram. Malinga ended with great figures of 3/15 off four overs.
Chennai seemed to begun the assault with some sort of ambition to end it all in the 15th over, but once Malinga took care of Parthiv Patel early and Suresh Raina went early, it was always an uphill job. Hayden had a break when Pinal Shah dropped him off Dwayne Bravo and he seemed bent on making Mumbai pay, but none of the Chennai batsman had really reckoned with the slowness of the Newlands pitch, which had been evident during the South Africa-Australia games as well. Mumbai Indians, on the other hand, did use that to their telling benefit.
Tendulkar hasnít played much Twenty20 cricket, but he paced it like he was doing this forever. He paced his innings beautifully, taking over the batting job, or rotating the strike as the situation demanded. His poise was what ensured that Mumbai didnít lose their way. The Mumbai Indians inning was a bit of a mixed bag, and that can be understood as this was just the beginning and openers Sanath Jayasuriya and Tendulkar were circumspect initially, with the conditions and the subsequent and bounce being enough to prompt some caution. But the duo had enough experience to work through it all, though they did had some initial alarms, both escaping being run out.
But while the two did score pretty freely, it never looked like the kind of opening pair that has the potential to give nightmares to all bowlers. Just as it was beginning to look promising, Jayasuriya departed. The veteran Sri Lankan had a life prior to this, when Matthew Hayden dropped an undroppable catch. But the burly Australian heaved a sigh of relief as the left-hander finally lobbed another easy offering to him.
Shikhar Dhawan at one-drop did chip in with some decent runs and a productive stand with Tendulkar but the middle-order didnít quite come to the party. The anticipatory murmurs as JP Duminy came on to bat were premature as he cracked one straight back to Manpreet Gony to give the Punjab bowler his second wicket and Dwayne Bravo also went way too early. At that stage, with Tendulkar seemingly running out of partners quickly, it looked liked Mumbai would be left short of par.
At 103 for four with 14.3 overs gone when Bravo was dismissed, Tendulkar was left with the possibility of farming the strike as he had young Abhishek Nayar and the tail left to play with. But the Mumbai skipper had seen, last time around, what Nayar was capable of and let the young left-hander have his way, and Nayar really took up the mantle with gusto.
Andrew Flintoff realized in one over that $1.55 million doesnít count for much on the field. Three sixes by Nayar made the score from a fighting total to a potentially winning one. By the time Nayar left in the 19th over, Mumbai Indians were looking quite comfortable indeed.