Sunday, May 4, 2008

Pollock leads Mumbai's shock win

Shaun Pollock was immense in every aspect as Mumbai Indians snatched their first win at home...

A magnificent all-round performance by Shaun Pollock produced the biggest upset of the tournament as Mumbai Indians - languishing with just one win in five games - pipped the fancied Delhi Daredevils by 29 runs in a gripping contest at the DY Patil Sports Academy stadium. Requiring a modest 163 for the fifth win, Delhi's much-vaunted batting line-up collapsed for a paltry 133.

One player influenced this result more than any other. Pollock has had a mixed tournament so far, but here he was immense in every aspect. With the bat, he came in to bat in the 15th over, when Mumbai were languishing at 112 for 5, and blasted 33 off a mere 15 balls, including 22 off the penultimate over, which changed a below-par total into a competitive one. He then returned with the ball and sent down four metronomic overs, conceding just 16 for two wickets. In his second over, he nailed Shikhar Dhawan, and then returned for a second spell to dismiss the dangerous Shoaib Malik. Add a catch to dismiss Virender Sehwag, and some inspired captaincy moves, and there was no doubt about who the Man of the Match was.

Delhi's strength has been their top-order batting - their top three have been in outstanding form - but here, two of them were back in the hutch after 14 deliveries, and the rest failed to measure up. On a slow pitch, both Gautam Gambhir and Dhawan mistimed drives on the up, and after three overs, the scorecard read a sorry 6 for 2. to make matters worse, Sehwag struggled to get the strike, facing just seven deliveries in the first six overs.

AB de Villiers and Sehwag mounted a mini-revival, but when de Villiers was unluckily run out backing up too far, it was the first indication that the day was going to belong to Mumbai. Sehwag, though, wasn't about to give up too easily. He continued to struggle to get to the striker's end, but when he did, he made it count: Pollock was slashed over point for a huge six, Dwayne Bravo's slower one was heaved over the bowler's head, while Sanath Jayasuriya was greeted into the attack with two brutal sixes over long-on and midwicket, the first of which gave him the orange cap for the tournament's highest scorer. The next ball he faced was his last, though, as Pollock - that man again - brought off a smart catch as Sehwag miscued a low full-toss off Dominic Thornely.

From there, it was a matter of holding their nerve, and Mumbai did that expertly. The bowling was spot-on, and the fielding showed an urgency which clearly demonstrated how much they wanted this win. Nothing exemplified the new-found spirit more than Ashish Nehra diving full-length at the long-on boundary to bring off an amazing save in the 16th over.

Shoaib Malik and Dinesh Karthik both threatened a fightback, but Mumbai weren't to be denied today. Pollock returned for a second spell and immediately had Malik scooping one to long-on as another batsman was defeated by lack of pace, while Pollock's golden touch then brought another success, as he tossed the ball to Bravo, who trapped Karthik plumb in front with his first ball. Nehra, the other stand-out bowler in the game, then took two wickets in two balls to seal the contest.

At the halfway mark, though, it seemed Mumbai's 162 would be inadequate. The absence of Sachin Tendulkar hit them hard again, especially against a new-ball bowling attack which had Glenn McGrath and Mohammad Asif. Yogesh Takawale, the 23-year-old wicketkeeper from Maharashtra who opened the innings, struggled to get the ball off the square, putting additional pressure on Jayasuriya. For a brief period, though, he responded magnificently. After starting off with a glorious cover-drive off McGrath, he flicked and lofted Asif for three fours. Yo Mahesh was greeted with a flicked six over square leg and a four to fine leg off successive balls. That, unfortunately, was as good as it got, as Takawale skied to third man, and Jayasuriya charged once too often. Those two wickets in the spate of three balls suddenly pegged back Mumbai, and they struggled to recover from that double blow.

The one feature that ran through the Mumbai innings was their tendency to lose wickets every time they seemed to be snatching the momentum. Robin Uthappa struck successive sixes over long-on and midwicket, only to throw it away by attempting a too-cheeky scoop over fine leg. Dominic Thornely, who returned to the team after recovering from the blow to the eye off Zaheer Khan a couple of weeks back, picked off Rajat Bhatia for a straight six before falling next ball, bowled while attempting a wild slog.

The reckless approach continued, as Abhishek Nayar moved to leg and missed a quick one from Virender Sehwag, while Dwayne Bravo lofted the fourth ball he faced straight to long-on. With the innings falling away alarmingly, it needed a quick blitz from Pollock to lift Mumbai to a somewhat respectable total. The 19th over - bowled by the lacklustre Asif - disappeared for 22 as Pollock smashed him straight, over extra cover, and over square leg for three sixes. A total of 162 still seemed below par, but that was before an inspired Mumbai Indian team took the field.