Mumbai Indians believe in that old saying, 'save the best for the last'. Skipper Rohit Sharma will tell you that their batsmen know how they can get a lot of runs in the last four overs at the Wankhede. There's just one problem with that theory – if it backfires, it can cost you. Like it did on Saturday.
The hosts went in with their tried and tested method against Chennai Super Kings. But maybe they didn't study their opposition too well. A 158-run chase was never going to be daunting for a team that relies on their batsman butchering the bowlers. Well, they didn't quite do that, but managed to reach home with three balls to spare and four wickets in hand.
And the man who made it possible was Mumbai's very own till last year – Dwayne Smith. The West Indian showed why Mumbai missed a trick by not getting him back this season, anchoring the chase with a 51-ball 57. Smith, along with Faf du Plessis, steadied the ship after Chennai lost Brendon McCullum and Suresh Raina cheaply to some debatable umpiring decisions. Not that it affected the duo. Smith and du Plessis took Chennai past the 100-run mark in the 14th over.
But what good is an IPL match without drama! Smith and du Plessis perished to Praveen Kumar and Lasith Malinga in the 16th and 17th over respectively. With 17 needed off 12, Malinga cleaned up Ravindra Jadeja in the fifth ball of his over. Mithun Manhas ran himself out the next ball. The equation came down to 11 off the final over, with MS Dhoni on strike to Kieron Pollard. The ever-so-cool skipper finished it the way he does on so many occasions – with a mammoth six and a four.
Mumbai thus suffered their sixth defeat in eight outings, making their chances of qualifying for the play-offs only harder. To add to their woes, their 'Fortress Wankhede' was breached by a visiting team after 10 attempts.
What Smith did for Chennai, none of the Mumbai batsmen could. Opener CM Gautam fell in the third over to Samuel Badree. Lendl Simmons — who came in for Ben Dunk — took his compatriot Badree apart in his next over, smacking him for two huge sixes. 32/1 in five overs, and Mumbai looked set to up the ante.
But from then on till about the 19th over, their innings resembled a car that didn't possess a fifth gear in its mechanism. Simmons and Ambati Rayudu were only too happy to rotate the strike and hit the odd boundary. Yes, the CSK spinners bowled a tight line, but a more enterprising approach from Mumbai would have done no harm. Simmons tried, but perished for a run-a-ball 38 in the 12th over.
Out came the in-form Rohit, and he couldn't do much either, with the score reading a meager 118/2 after 17 overs. It is around this time that Mumbai usually flex their muscles fully, but what followed was a procession of wickets. The hosts lost Rohit, Rayudu and Kieron Pollard – out for a golden duck — in a space of five balls, and their hopes of going berserk in the end came crashing down. Only a late flourish by Corey Anderson and Aditya Tare took them to 157/6.