After the five-over mark, Kolkata Knight Riders were stuttering at 19 for 3 while Mumbai Indians had raced away to 51 for no loss. The contrast in the start told the story of the Indian Premier League's eliminator at the Wankhede Stadium on Wednesday. It was just the opening the Mumbai Indians would have dreamt off and the one Kolkata Knight Riders dreaded.
The Knight Riders did well to make a match of it but the loss of early ground proved to be the difference in the end. For the second straight day, the fans witnessed a thriller. Needing seven to win off the last over, Mumbai Indians held their nerves to win by four wickets with four balls to spare.
The star performers for the home team were Munaf Patel for his three-wicket haul and Aiden Blizzard for his blazing 30-ball 51.
Mumbai Indians will play Royal Challengers Bangalore in the second qualifier in Chennai, a virtual semi-final. In their quest for their first title, the real test for Sachin Tendulkar's men now will be fatigue, whether they will be able to cope with playing three games in four days. RCB will be at an advantage having a two-day break before the play-off and Chennai Super Kings will have a three-day break going into the final.
The way Knight Riders batted, they made the Wankhede strip look as demonic as a Durban green top to be reduced to 20 for four. They owed it to their Netherlands recruit, Ryan ten Doeschate, for being able to make a match of it. He hit an unbeaten 49-ball 70 (3 sixes, 6 fours) to help KKR recover to 147 for 7.
Complementing their bowlers' good work, Sachin Tendulkar and Blizzard ended KKR's dreams of a comeback with an aggressive, entertaining opening partnership of 81 runs in 7.1 overs.
Blizzard set the tempo by attacking spearhead Brett Lee. He used the crease well to make room to free arms. When Lee finally had him caught at point, trying another hit over the off-side by stepping back, Blizzard had done the damage.
Tendulkar has been surprisingly subdued in his last few innings of the tournament. But in the knock-out game, he turned up with his A game. After playing second fiddle to Blizzard initially, he brought the house down with four successive fours off Yusuf Pathan in the fifth over.
The only time Mumbai Indians felt under a bit of pressure was when they lost Rohit Sharma and Tendulkar in quick succession, but Ambati Rayudu (12), James Franklin (29 not out) and Harbhajan Singh (11 not out) chipped in with useful contributions to ease the nerves.
Put into bat, the way KKR started, they seemed unsure about their target. The top-order, so assured and calculated so far, paid the price for trying to manufacture strokes in an attempt to seize the early initiative. KKR's nervy start was reflective of the mental scars of the stunning last-over defeat on Sunday against MI when they snatched defeated from the jaws of victory.