As they envisaged defending their IPL title at the beginning of the season, the Mumbai Indians would never have imagined beginning with three straight defeats, even as a worst-case scenario. However, after another poor performance, where their batsmen yet again flattered to deceive, MI are stuck in the mires of the bottom of the IPL table following a scathing defeat to the Chennai Super Kings.
Primary on the minds of the MI players heading into Friday's match in Dubai would have been to put on a good show with the bat after scores of 122 and 115 in their first two games, and for 15 overs there held plenty of promise of a turnaround. But a sudden collapse, which made a house of cards look sturdier than the Great Wall of China, all the momentum was sapped out, with MI eventually managing a below par score of 141 for seven from their 20 overs -- Mohit Sharma starring with figures of 4-0-14-4.
In reply, CSK never looked troubled, getting off to a blazing start courtesy former MI stalwart Dwayne Smith and Brendon McCullum (71 n.o., 53b, 8x4, 2x6), with the latter staying at the crease till the end to ease his side through to a comfortable seven-wicket victory with six balls to spare.
CSK started their chase in searing pace with Smith showing no mercy to his former team while McCullum was his belligerent best.
Smith, well versed with this MI bowling lineup, took to them like a duck on water, stroking one six after another, sending Ojha's deliveries, after playing the left-armer for a maiden off the first over of the innings, into orbit to set the tone for the chase.
McCullum did not lag too behind either, even if the sixes did not flow as easily, with CSK racing to 51 after the six Powerplay overs. Smith's assault, worth 29 from 22 balls (0x4, 4x6), though, was ended by Ojha, with the West Indian, after smashing a huge six, looking for another, but mistiming it with Corey Anderson taking a nice running catch.
McCullum, however, continued his good knock, with Suresh Raina's early dismissal, stumped by Ambati Rayudu off Harbhajan Singh, not deterring him one bit. Faf Du Plessis joined McCullum at the crease and the New Zealand and South African T20I captains calmed the storm that MI had built with two quick wickets to take CSK to the brink.
McCullum and Du Plessis (20, 25b, 0x4, 0x6) stitched a 53-run partnership in 8.2 overs, which took the equation down to a can-do-it-in-our-sleep 28 from 25 balls before the latter was picked up by Harbhajan (two for 27).
MS Dhoni (14 n.o., 11b, 1x4, 1x6), as calm a man as you can find to finish the innings, came in and the skipper and McCullum saw CSK through to 142 for three with little trouble for their third straight win.
The first innings witnessed the Mumbai Indians fall short with the bat yet again, and this time, despite building a solid platform.
Rohit Sharma kept himself at No.4 despite calls for him opening the innings along with Michael Hussey, who could not show his obvious class against the side he called home for so long in the IPL.
Hussey (1, 7b) fell in just the second over to fellow Aussie Ben Hilfenhaus, who brought a peach of a delivery out of his locker - the ball pitching on middle and clipping off.
Aditya Tare has not been too bad at the top, but the right-hander is yet to make use of a solid start and build a bigger innings, with the same story being told on Friday night as well. Tare hit four boundaries in his 19-ball 23, but was dismissed in the fifth over by the excellent Mohit Sharma.
Corey Anderson had been sent in at No. 3 and Rohit joined him in the middle with the MI duo going about their jobs of setting a solid base quite well, allying for 84 runs in 64 deliveries.
The two took the Mumbai Indians to 109 for two in the 16th over, before it all went wrong for the defending champions. Anderson (39, 31b, 3x4, 1x6) was run out looking for quick single and that wicket triggered a flurry of wickets.
From 109 for two MI crashed to 127 for seven as their hopes of mounting a big run-fest in the final five overs went for a toss, and then some. The CSK bowlers also must be given credit, with Mohit Sharma in particular, bowling wonderfully well, showing brilliant control with his slower deliveries, as the likes of Rohit (50, 41b, 3x4, 2x6), Kieron Pollard and Ambati Rayudu just failed to find any kind of momentum.
Only 33 runs came off the final 30 deliveries with the CSK bowlers sucking the happy feelings out of MI to give their batsmen a simple chase.