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NSW Blues beat Mumbai by 5 wickets in low scoring encounter

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steve_smithIn another low scoring contest, New South Wales got the better of the Mumbai Indians by 5 wickets to throw Group A wide open once again. On a two paced wicket in Chennai, the NSW seamers did a great job to restrict the flamboyant Mumbai line up to just 100/7 in their 20 overs. Stuart Clark (2/15) and Mitchell Starc(1/28) wreaked havoc early in the Mumbai innings before James Franklin (42*) along with useful contributions from R Satish (14) and Harbhajan Singh (15) took Mumbai to the three figure mark. In reply, NSW were off to a disastrous start, losing half the side for just 28 runs. Young Assam pacer Abu Nechim Ahmed with an opening spell of 3/13 was the wrecker in chief. But Steven Smith(45*) and Ben Rohrer(26*) played sensibly under pressure and stitched together an unbeaten partnership of 73 to take the Blues past the finish line, with three overs to spare.

After their last game against Cape Cobras in Bangalore was washed out, Group A table toppers Mumbai Indians squared up against New South Wales on a hot and sultry afternoon at the MA Chidambaram stadium in Chennai. While Mumbai needed a win to comfirm their place in the semis, for NSW it was a do or die game. Mumbai skipper Harbhajan Singh won the toss and on a slow pitch promptly elected to bat first. Both teams were unchanged from their previous encounter.

But the decision to bat first seemed to back fire as New South Wales' opening bowlers, veteran Stuart Clark and Mitchell Starc stormed the Mumbai top order and reduced the IPL team to 9/3. MI's Aussie recruit Aiden Blizzard was the first to go, falling victim to the slowness of the track as he dragged a Clark delivery back onto his stumps in the first over itself to depart for 1. His opening partner Sarul Kanwar (5), who caught the Cobras off guard the other night, began with a boundary but in the same over guided a full toss from Starc straight to O'Keefe at point. Clark, then got his second victim, inducing an edge from Ambati Rayudu to Watson at slip to send him back for 2. The need of the hour was to rebuild the innings but Kieron Pollard failed to keep his urge to bludgeon under check and attempted a big heave against Pat Cummins only to see the ball sneak in and shatter the stumps. At the end of the first powerplay, Mumbai were in all sorts of trouble at 28/4.

This brought the Trans Tasman pair of James Franklin and Andrew Symonds together to the centre. With Mumbai in damage control mode, neither of them tried anything flashy and quietly looked to build a partnership. The NSW bowlers managed to dry up the runs but there was no further loss of wickets. At the halfway stage, Mumbai Indians were 43/4.

With quite a bit of catching up to do, Symonds decided to take a few chances. However, he didnt last long to cause enough impact as left-arm orthodox Steve O'Keefe fired in a flat one to beat Symonds (9) in the flight and hit timber. R Sathish was the next batsman in and he got some momentum for his team, hitting back to back boundaries off Henriques. With just 5 overs remaining, Mumbai were struggling at 67/5.

Sathish looked to take on O'Keefe but failed to clear long on to give him his second victim. Sathish made 14 before departing. Skipper Harbhajan Singh joined Franklin in the middle and got a couple of boundaries towards the end, adding a quick 28 runs for the seventh wicket. He was run out on the penultimate ball but Franklin picked a two off the last ball to ensure that Mumbai touched the 100 run mark.

With a partly 101 to get, there wasn't much pressure on the NSW openers and David Warner started off with a bang, hitting three boundaries to get the chase up and running. But things changed quite dramatically as the Mumbai pacers struck early to peg back the Aussie team. Abu Nechim Ahmed, who opened the attack with Malinga, got the first breakthrough when he hit Shane Watson(3) on the pads and the ball rolled on to hit the stumps. In the same over, Warner too was dismissed for 12 as he went into a drive early and popped up a catch to Harbhajan Singh at short cover. Malinga then caught the opposition skipper Simon Katich plumb in front of the wicket for a duck. Nechim was given an extended spell by Harbhajan and he didn't dissapoint his captain and got Daniel Smith (8) to nick one behind, to leave NSW reeling at 27/4 after the powerplay.

Harbhajan brought young legspinner Yuzvender Chahal into the attack with two men around the bat and wickets continued to fall. All rounder Moises Henriques stayed rooted to his crease and was trapped in front of the stumps for a duck, though replays indicated later that the ball might have just pitched outside leg. Steven Smith and Ben Rohrer then combined and defied the spinners, making sure that stalled the collapse. At the halfway stage they were 45/5, still 56 away from victory.

The pair continued to milk the bowling and got singles at will to take the Blues' score nearer the target. Smith got one in his arc and he dispatched Chahal into the stands to get the first maximum of the match. Mumbai had to rely on the likes of Pollard and Franklin to do the fifth bowler's job and NSW cashed on the opportunity. The fifty run stand was brought up by Rohrer with a brilliant boundary that was squeezed in between point and third man. With 17 required off last five, NSW were firm favorites.

From here it was New South Wales' game to lose and Steve Smith ensured that they got home without much fuss. Harbhajan looked to cut off the singles but the well set Smith was able to find gaps easily and finished the game with 3 overs to spare to give his side some much needed points and also boost the net run rate.

With this win the hopes of New South Wales stay alive in the tournament. With two wins from 3 games, they are now second in the table with 4 points and a game against the Chennai Super Kings to come. On the other hand, Mumbai Indians are still the group toppers with 5 points but with no more matches to play, they will have to depend on the outcome of other games to know about their fate.


Mumbai Indians: S Kanwar, A Blizzard, A Rayudu, J Franklin, K Pollard, A Symonds, Harbhajan Singh, R Sathish, L Malinga, A Ahmed, Y Chahal

NSW Blues: D Warner, S Watson, D Smith, S Katich, S Smith, M Henriques, B Rohrer, S O'Keefe, M Starc, P Cummins, S Clark

Mini Scorecard:

MI 100/7 (20 overs, run rate 5)

J Franklin 42*(51) S Clark 2/15
H Singh 15(16) S O'Keefe 2/18

NSW 101/5 (17 overs, runrate 5.94)

S Smith 45*(47) A Nechim 3/23
B Rohrer 26*(28) Y Singh 1/17

File Photograph Copyright: Dave