Mumbai Indians 159 for 4 (19.2 overs) beat Chennai Super Kings 158 for 5 (20 overs) by six wickets

The Chennai Super Kings’ (CSK) unbeaten run at home was finally halted at 10 matches when the Mumbai Indians (MI), riding on a spectacular late blitz from Hiren Pandya, won a match they had conspired to win and lose about a couple of times before finally picking up two vital points. With no team yet confirmed to be in the playoffs, CSK were looking to ensure qualification and on a typical Chennai pitch that was expected to turn, M S Dhoni went in with three spinners (Ashwin was back in the team from injury, Negi retained his place and there was Ravindra Jadeja) and batted first on winning the toss.

The start was typically CSK as Dwayne Smith and Brendan McCullum raced away to the now familiar 40 odd runs by the fifth over when McCullum fell. But then Dwayne Smith and Suresh Raina practically gifted their wickets away reducing CSK to 65 for 3 and Faf duPlessis and M S Dhoni had to undertake a repair job that saw CSK’s run rate dip below 7 and over. After duPlessis’ departure (caught brilliantly by Lendl Simmons who pulled off a brilliant catch to dismiss Yuvraj Singh the other night) in the 16th over, Dhoni still struggled to break free and decided to hand more of the strike to Pawan Negi. Negi, for his part, launched himself into Vinay Kumar and McClenaghan, clearing his right leg and hoicking over the leg side as well as backing away and cutting forcefully on the off. The result was an important cameo of 36 off 17 balls that boosted CSK to 158, a total that would be tricky to chase given the wicket and CSK’s strength with spinners. It looked like Negi had made the difference in the match for CSK. And he would, but in vastly different circumstances in the second innings.

MI started brilliantly with Parthiv Patel and Lendl Simmons attacking the new ball bowlers in the power play in the anticipation that scoring off spin won’t be easy. They put on 84 in 10 overs and the game seemed to be as good as over but that was when Ashwin came in to bowl and struck with his first delivery when Parthiv tried to clear the long on boundary. Simmons followed three balls later and when Dwayne Bravo ran out Kieron Pollard as MI were slowed down by Ashwin and Negi operating in tandem, the visitors seemed to be losing the plot just like the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) and the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) had in similar circumstances at this ground.

But CSK’s familiar winning template was not to replicate itself mainly thanks to another calm finishing job from Ambati Rayudu (who is now unbeaten in the last three games for MI) and a rare tactical error from MS Dhoni (he admitted as much in the post game interview) when he gave the penultimate over to Pawan Negi. Negi had only conceded 9 runs in 3 overs until then but conceded 25 in an over where Pandya smacked him for three sixes. The equation came down from 30 in 12 balls to just 5 off the last over and MI cruised home to record a win that boosted their playoff chances as much as it reduced CSK’s wriggle room at the top.

The playoff race just became a whole lot more interesting with any 4 of the 7 teams bar Kings XI Punjab still with the possibility of making it.

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