Jaipur: Mumbai Indians were huge favourites going into two previous encounters with Lions in the Champions League, and on both occasions they had come up short. This time, there was the added pressure of it being a must-win encounter and the challenge of a juicy pitch with pace that reminded the Lions captain, Alviro Petersen, of the track at his home ground in Johannesburg. Mumbai didn’t buckle this time, though, coasting to a seven-wicket victory on the back of a typically power-packed half-century from Dwayne Smith and a superb spell from Harbhajan Singh.
The match had been shifted out from Ahmedabad due to the persistent rains there, and while the skies were clearer in Jaipur, there was still an early interruption as the floodlights failed, holding up play for over 20 minutes.
Before that, there had been a glimpse of the bounce in the surface as Mitchell Johnson got a short delivery to lift off, flying for a one-bounce four with no intervention from the batsman. Still, the early help in the track which had both captains eager to bowl first didn’t bother Lions too much as they reached 40 for 1 after five overs.
Mumbai then wrestled the advantage in a passage that began with a Rishi Dhawan maiden. Harbhajan’s straighter one – which he used frequently – foxed Quinton de Kock. Neil McKenzie, Lions’ hero in both their previous matches against Mumbai, showed glimpses of his ability with a deft reverse-sweep and a supremely-timed six over long-on. He, however, misread Dhawan’s incutter to be bowled for 15, and with Pragan Ojha striking in his first two overs, Lions were soon stumbling at 81 for 5.
Ojha’s third over was taken for two sixes – including a 103m hit by Dwaine Pretorius – as he and Petersen struck a 59-run unbeaten partnership that took Lions to a reasonable total of 140. With the new ball jagging around, beating the bat consistently, Lions still had a chance of defending the total.
Their hopes were raised as the wait for a big score from Sachin Tendulkar continued when he was baffled by a slower one from Sohail Tanvir, and Dinesh Karthik also departed early.
A muscular innings from Smith, though, dashed Lions’ chances. It was not the most fluent knock, as there were several edges, and he missed the ball repeatedly, but when he connected properly, the ball rocketed to the boundary. His runs came almost exclusively on the leg-side as he used the short-arm pull and the launch over long-on quite effectively.
The asking-rate was never out of hand, and even though Kieron Pollard took some time to settle after Rohit Sharma’s dismissal, the chase was completed with nine deliveries to spare. Pollard made up for lost time with three big sixes, and Smith stayed till the end to leave Lions hoping for something of a miracle to make it to the semi-finals.
Mumbai Indians 141 for 3 (Smith 63*) beat Lions 140 for 5 (Petersen 35*) by seven wickets