Star-studded Mumbai Indians overcame a middle-order collapse to edge out Rajasthan Royals by four-wickets in the tense second qualifier here at the Eden Gardens on Friday and set up Sunday’s IPL-VI title clash with two-time champions Chennai Super Kings.
Chasing 166 for victory, Mumbai Indians rode on a responsible half-century by in-form opener Dwayne Smith (62 off 44, 6x4, 2x6) and two sizeable partnerships to romp home with one ball to spare.But it was Harbhajan Singh who walked away with man of the match award for scalping three wickets for 23 runs, taking two catches and hitting the winning runs, a boundary to the extra-cover fence.
Mumbai Indians started the chase on a positive note with Smith and Aditya Tare stitching together 70 runs in 9.1 overs. Tare was more aggressive of the duo as he slammed a 27-ball 35 with the help of three boundaries and two sixes
After Tare was caught by Sanju Samson at long-on off Kevon Cooper, Smith consolidated the position, adding a quickfire 55 for the second wicket with Dinesh Karthik. But Mumbai Indians almost snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, losing five wickets for 35 runs. However, they managed to hold their nerves to script the last-ball victory.
Rajasthan Royals lost the match mainly because of their ineffective bowling and atrocious fielding. While absence of a spinner made the five-pronged bowling unit look ordinary on a slow wicket, misfielding and overthrows cost them around 20 runs. The worst came as Brad Hodge, their hero in the eliminator, dropped an easy catch in the 19th over.
Earlier, a decent start and a late flourish helped Rajasthan Royals set up a challenging target after they elected to bat on a slow wicket. Skipper Rahul Dravid hit a 37-ball (7x4) 43 and compiled 44 run for the opening-wicket stand with Ajinkya Rahane.
They put the opposition bowling attack under pressure by targeting ace speedster Mitchell Johnson for some harsh treatment.
But Harbhajan Singh helped Mumbai Indians fight back into the game by scalping three wickets for 23 runs and taking two catches. He dismissed Rahane, ace allrounder Shane Watson and Stuart Binny with some smart off-break bowling.
Harbhajan struck once each in his first two overs, sending back Rahane for an 18-ball 21 and Watson for just six.
Rajasthan squandered their decent start as they slumped from 44 for no loss to 65 for three at the end of 10 overs. They lost the third wicket as Sanju Samson fell for a blob, playing a rash stroke off Lasitha Malinga. Dravid was fourth man out scoring 43 off 37 balls with seven boundaries.
However, an unfinished 57-run stand between Dishant Yagnik (31 n.o, 17b, 5x4) and Brad Hodge enabled Rajasthan Royals to recover well to finish at 165 for six. They amassed 61 runs in the last five overs. An erratic Lasith Malinga gave away 18 runs, including eight extras in the last over.
The crucial game was delayed by 65 minutes due rain and wet outfield. Rajasthan Royals made no change in the team that beat Sunrisers Hyderabad by four wickets in the Eliminator at Delhi two days ago. This means, they would continue to play without a spinner. Mumbai Indians made one change, replacing an ineffective Munaf Patel with Rishi Dhawan.