It helps to have wickets in hand. Chennai Super Kings had plenty while charting its winning course against Mumbai Indians in the Indian Premier League qualifier at the Ferozeshah Kotla here.
Suresh Raina and Michael Hussey gave the CSK innings the direction it desired. The early dismissal of M. Vijay galvanised CSK, and Raina showed the way with an aggression that marks his batting in this format.
Hussey, a batsman dreaded by most bowlers in this competition, played his part well, hanging in and pushing his partner, even while keeping the scoreboard ticking.
The 140-run second wicket partnership between Hussey and Raina paved the way for CSK’s fifth entry into the final of the IPL following a 48-run win on Tuesday night.
Winner twice, the most consistent team in the tournament made fewer errors than the opponents, and earned its slot for the title clash at Eden Gardens.
It worked in CSK’s favour that two Mumbai Indians batsmen fell when the bowlers were at their wits’ end to counter the assault.
Ravindra Jadeja earned Kieron Pollard’s wicket off an innocuous delivery after being slammed for two gigantic sixes by the West Indian.
The chase was given an electrifying pace by Dwayne Smith, as he produced some daring shots. It lasted long enough to give CSK the scare but then Mumbai Indians failed to dominate when it mattered and succumbed to Jadeja in the middle overs.
The fall of Smith and Dinesh Karthik saw the game slipping away, but it was Pollard’s fall that clinched the contest for CSK.
Pollard was only the fifth batsman to get out but Mumbai Indians, taking the field without an injured Sachin Tendulkar, lacked the firepower in the lower half to alter the course of the match.
When CSK elected to bat, Mumbai Indians did not wilt but it allowed the opposition to dictate in the last ten overs, after the first ten produced 69.
The assurance that Hussey brings to the crease, milking the attack, sometimes tearing into it, was the influence CSK needed to set the trend.
Raina enjoyed his presence in the middle. So did the audience. There was innovation and some traditional play as he picked gaps at will.
This ability to beat the field reflected Raina’s preparation. His was not crass hitting. He remembered to present a straight bat, a rarity in T20 cricket, but never lost the opportunity to flay the Mumbai Indians attack.
CSK lost a mere wicket and that worked in its favour. The bowlers capitulated once Raina and Hussey came up with a well-crafted assault.
Both the batsmen revelled in belting the ball, smartly placing it behind the stumps, leaving the field in a trance. The ease with which they flicked and glanced gave the Mumbai Indians little chance to regroup.
Recovery was tough. Hussey moved his feet, and so did Raina, both dismissing the bowlers with disdain.
A six to fine leg by Husssey in the last over off Lasith Malinga was an amazing shot. It was not a top edge or a well-directed pull. It was a caress off bended knee. This was innovative batsmanship at its best, and the fact that it came against Malinga made the act all the more fascinating.
CSK hardly missed the middle-order strokemakers.
Raina and Hussey ensured the target was competitive. The endurance of Hussey and the exuberance of Raina propelled the CSK into a position of comfort. The end result was a thumping triumph.