Bangalore, May 23 (IANS) In the Eliminator game of the Indian Premier league (IPl-5) T20 between two-time champions Chennai Super Kings (CSK) and an upbeat Mumbai Indians (MI) late Wednesday, die-hard fans of this city remained bi-partisan in the packed M. Chinnaswamy stadium.
With home team Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) knocked out of play-offs after tamely losing to underdogs Deccan Chargers (DC) in their final league tie May 20 at Hyderabad, local fans had a tough call in backing either team as neither had any local lad playing.
Hoping that hosts RCB would somehow sneak into the second playoff, especially after they demolished Delhi Daredevils May 18 in New Delhi by 21 runs, thousands of fans bought as many tickets last week to be part of a high-octane game.
'Though I am saddened to miss RCB playing on home turf this time, I have no regrets to see stronger teams play here, as it the spirit of the game that matters than who is playing. It's cricket that wins in such contests,' 24-year-old Pravin Kumar, a marketing executive, told IANS in eastern stand.
Red carpet welcome, fire works and bonhomie spice up
As part of the build-up for the finale, the cash-rich IPl rolled out the red carpet to both the teams with electronic fire pots lit remotely on both sides at the pavilion end. When the Mumbai team walked onto the green for fielding, a passive stadium suddenly came to life to greet batting maestro Sachin Tendulkar, all-rounder Kieron Pollard and Sri lankan speedster lasith Malinga with cheers, claps and whistling.
Playing on a neutral ground, both the teams displayed a lot of bonhomie to make up for the absence of local fan support. Rocket-like fire works from around the stadium for every six hit or a wicket taken was cheered by fans, especially young boys and girls attired in colourful dresses and waving flags.
Chennai recover after disastrous start to fight back
Though opting to field after winning the toss proved Bhajji right initially, as Chennai made a disastrous start, losing Murali Vijay for one and Suresh Raina for duck in the first two balls of second over of Dhawal Kulkarni, Aussie opener Michael Hussey (49 in 39 balls) and S. Badrinath (47 in 39 balls) stayed put to build the innings with a solid 93-run third wicket partnership and breathing fresh life into the game.
When CSK captain Dhoni walked into the middle at the fall of Badrinath in the 14th over with 95 runs on board for the loss of three wickets, Mumbai bowlers were hoping to restrict the champions to about 150 or so. But that was not to be, as Dhoni capitalised on the foundation laid by Hussey and Badrinath to accelerate the score for setting an imposing target of 188 for 2010 runners-up.
In spite of losing Hussey and Ravindra Jadeja in successive overs (15th and 16th), the wicket-keeper captain was in his elements to rock the stadium, as he rattled up 51 in just 20 balls, hitting two mighty sixes, including one over the stadium roof (a record 112 metres) and eight fours.
Not to be out done, West Indian Dwayne Bravo joined Dhoni to build an unbeaten 73-run sixth wicket partnership by hitting 33 in just 14 balls, including two mighty sixes and three fours.
The revival of CSK's fortunes gladdened the hearts of thousands of frenzied fans, including about 8,000 who came from Chennai and towns across the border in neighbouring Tamil Nadu.
Though Chennai could muster only 61 runs for two wickets in the first 10 overs, including the six-over power play, a captain's knock, ably supported by Hussey and Bravo, helped them to hit a whopping 126 runs in the remaining 10 overs.