Mumbai Indians boast of some of the biggest hitters in T20 cricket in their line-up and they fired in unison to storm into the semi-final of the Champions League, achieving their target in just 13.2 overs. The target was 150, but in order to topple Otago on net run rate, they needed to achieve it within 14.2 overs. The strategy was clear and Dwayne Smith and Rohit Sharma made it look ridiculously simple against a Perth Scorchers attack that failed to contain a determined top order. It meant that the semi-final line-up had three IPL teams in it.
The scenarios were clearly spelt out for Mumbai ahead of the game as to what they required to keep Otago out of the semi-final race. It’s common for captains to prefer to chase in such situations and Rohit decided to do just that. The required rate for qualification was over ten an over and Mumbai approached it as a 14-over game.
Sachin Tendulkar wasn’t in the best of form but he was sent to open anyway. There was the possibility that this would be his last T20 match in the event of them failing to qualify. He fell for a second-ball duck, flicking to deep square leg and there was a hush around the Kotla as he walked back. Smith provided the big hits starting from the second ball of the innings, which he slogged over mid-on before dispatching another over the rope at long-on.
Scorchers had three left-arm spinners in their line-up, including the experienced Brad Hogg, but their one-dimensional spin attack was demolished by a rampaging Smith. Flighted deliveries were slogged and smashed over the covers and anything dropped short was pulled over the leg side at breakneck speed. The flatter and quicker deliveries kept him quiet on occasion but Scorchers were guilty of bowling the wrong lengths.
The left-arm seamers, Joel Paris and Jason Behrendorff, came in for similar punishment. Paris’ first over leaked 19, with an effortless six by Rohit over fine leg followed by an outside edge past the wicketkeeper. Hogg bowled two long hops, the first of which was smashed by Smith over deep midwicket. The second was pulled flatter, but Behrendorff timed his jump to perfection at deep square leg to pull off a sharp catch to send back Smith for 48.
Another hush enveloped the ground as Smith walked back but Rohit was in sublime form at the other end. He ensured the run rate stayed around ten an over, slogging the spinners and launching Paris several rows over long-off to speed towards his fifty. At the end of ten overs, Mumbai raced to 117 for 3 and held the edge. Kieron Pollard had moved to a relatively pedestrian 12 off 12 balls but two solid blows in an over off Behrendorff eased any pressure that may have crept up. Tension started to build in the dugout when Pollard was bowled in the 13th over with Mumbai still needing 13 off 11. Ambati Rayudu sealed the win with consecutive sixes and Mumbai qualified with an over to spare.
Scorchers were already knocked out of the competition but their batsmen did their bit to make it difficult for Mumbai. Two half-century stands pushed Scorchers to what looked like a competitive 149 on a typically slow Kotla track. The openers Ashton Agar and Simon Katich added 55, helped by some ordinary fielding and catching by Mumbai. Sam Whiteman, making his T20 debut, and Hilton Cartwright added a half-century stand in just 30 balls after Mumbai pulled things back with quick wickets. Given the slowness of the pitch, 149 looked respectable but Scorchers didn’t have the bowling to keep Mumbai down.
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