Harbhajan Singh has forever been the showboater. The man for the big occasion, and one who never misses out on an opportunity to play to the crowd. It’s being in the spotlight that he thrives on after all.
So it wasn’t surprising to see the veteran off-spinner irrepressibly animated following the fifth delivery of his opening over on Wednesday. As he high-fived his teammates, punched the air and broke into a little jig, the Brabourne crowd responded in kind with a raucous roar.
Harbhajan to his credit single-handedly just brought the stadium to life, long after the DJ had dished out his final tune for the night. He had done so by a dramatic double-strike, sending back both the Chennai Super Kings openers, who had till then held forth in dominating fashion putting 60 on the board in the first six overs.
At least, Dwayne Smith had looked to smash the leather off the ball, like he always does, while perishing to a skier at long-on. Faf du Plessis’s scoop that cost him his wicket was not only unwarranted it was also attempted with little intent or conviction.
But just like that Harbhajan had brought Mumbai Indians right back into a contest that was fast slipping out of their grasp. Earlier in the day, Harbhajan might well have sat with an eye on the television, harbouring hopes, however distant, of earning a much-awaited recall to the Indian team. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be.
Here at a packed Brabourne with millions watching on television, was his chance to prove a point, another penchant that he has never shied away from. For a brief while it did seem that Harbhajan was spinning an unlikely win for the defending champions. But that too wasn’t to be with Suresh Raina deciding to play spoilsport.
Raina incidentally had won a recall to the Indian team on Wednesday and that too with a cherry on top after being named captain for the three-match ODI series in Bangladesh.
And he celebrated it with a breezy half-century to see Chennai home and bring an end to Mumbai’s title-reign, one that many thought should have ended a match earlier anyway.
Once Harbhajan bowled out, his figures reading 2/27, Mumbai’s bowling attack never seemed to have the arsenal required to stall Chennai’s charge.
To boot Raina looked in irresistible form, and was ably supported by David Hussey, who kept hitting sixes whenever the required rate threatened to get tighter.
There was still some life left in the contest as Pragyan Ojha commenced his third over, and the 16th of CSK’s innings with 42 still required. By the end of it, the match was all but over after Ojha was air-lifted for three massive sixes.
In the end, even Mahendra Singh Dhoni wasn’t required to flex his muscles as Raina and Hussey saw the team home, ensuring a clash against Kings XI Punjab on Friday at Wankhede Stadium to decide the second finalist for IPL7.
Earlier in the day, Lendl Simmons and Michael Hussey had given the crucial impetus at the top for the Mumbai Indians with a 76-run stand, setting the stage for Corey Anderson to produce another blistering assault.
On Wednesday, as he walked out to bat, some 28,000 were on their feet and screaming their lungs out to welcome him to the crease.
He did oblige on a couple of occasions with two mighty sixes but then fell to the guile of Ravichandran Ashwin, who was the most economical bowler on the day.
The loss off Anderson set back the Mumbai innings in a way they wouldn’t have imagined. Simmons did continue to dazzle for a while longer, top-scoring with a 44-ball 67, but the hosts collapsed from being 140/2 at the end of the 16th over to 167/6 before Harbhajan smashed Mohit Sharma-who finished with figures of 3/33-over the long-on fence.
Mumbai’s talisman did return to steal the spotlight briefly with the ball, but it was Raina and CSK who were left punching the air and indulging in animated celebrations at the end of the day.