Kieron Pollard proved why he was the most expensive buy during the auction for IPL 3. He put in a magnificent all-round performance against the Bangalore Royal Challengers in the first semi-final as Mumbai sealed their place in the final with an emphatic 35-run win.
The fiery West Indian first slammed a sizzling, unbeaten 33 and in the company of Saurabh Tiwary (52 not out) enabled Mumbai to recover from a dicey position and post an imposing 184 for 5. Such was the brutality of the duo’s attack in the last five overs that as many as 77 runs were scored and the total skyrocketed from 107 for the loss of 4 wickets in the 15th over as roar at D Y Patil got bigger.
In reply, Bangalore never quite got going during the chase. The pressure of the semi-final clearly got even to the strong batting line-up. In the big game, Bangalore opened their reply Rahul Dravid joining Jacques Kallis at the top of the order. But, the move failed to work. While Kallis (11) was consumed by a brilliant outswinger from Lasith Malinga early in the innings, Dravid fell victim to a mix-up between him and Ross Taylor.
His hard-earned 22 did not do much to help the team’s cause. In between, a dangerous looking Kevin Pietersen (19), who was rightly sent in one down, was brilliantly stumped down the leg side by Ambati Rayudu off Harbhajan Singh’s bowling. In what appeared to be a well-planned move, the off-spinner fired one down the leg-side and Rayudu completed the smart stumping as Pietersen blindly charged down the track.
It was wide delivery, but Mumbai would have happily exchanged an extra run and delivery to see the back of the England’s world-class player.
With the top guns gone, all hopes were now pinned on Robin Uthappa. Could he turn batman again? Unfortunately not, for Bangalore even though he shone briefly. Uthappa lofted Harbhajan’s for two massive sixes. The 18-run over gave Bangalore some hope. But, with the run-rate always on the ascendancy, Uthappa had to keep on going for the big ones consistently.
One such stroke led to him downfall. Pollard chipped in with a smart slower ball. It was one of the rare occasions when Uthappa failed to time one and, as a result, holed out in the deep for 26. In walked Taylor, but out walked Dravid the very next ball, confused over taking a quick single. At 81 for 4, Bangalore needed something miraculous from the woefully struggling Taylor.
He did chip in with 31*. However, with wickets falling at the other end, he was deprived of the strike during the most crucial occasions. For Mumbai, Pollard and Malinga complemented each other perfectly – one slowing things up and causing trouble and other beating the batsmen with pace.
Mumbai’s batsmen played an equally significant part in the victory, earlier in the evening. Sachin Tendulkar fell early courtesy and the next three also departed with only 77 on the board. It was only Rayudu, who kept the runs flowing from one end, throwing his bat wherever and gathering a number of boundaries. He eventually fell for 40, but his dismissal put Mumbai back in trouble. It was here though that the game changed drastically.
Tiwary and Pollard put in a special exhibition of power-hitting. Tiwary began by slamming a wayward Kallis all over the park in the 16th over. The home team never looked back from then. Even Anil Kumble was taken for plenty in his final spell by the left-hander. Pollard took no time to get his eye in. He took care of Vinay Kumar and Dale Steyn as Mumbai were rollicking away. Bangalore could not recover from the brutal assault.
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