If it was Chennai captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni's idea to make Mohali's ace batsman Shaun Marsh think differently, his plan to have Muttiah Muralitharan open the bowling attack worked to the tee. While the offie himself did not do any damage in the first over, the Mohali batsmen were clearly taken by surprise and under pressure to break free from Murali’s shackles fell to Makhaya Ntini, Manpreet Gony and Albie Morkel, getting restricted to 112 for eight.
And Chennai set up a Sunday date with Jaipur in the final by overhauling the Mohali total and winning the second semifinal by nine wickets here on Saturday.
The relatively low target did not really challenge the Chennai batsmen. Opener Parthiv Patel and number three batsman Suresh Raina added 102 runs for the third wicket and ensured there would be no surprises after the innings break. Chennai reached home in 14.5 overs. Raina looked on song and even hit James Hopes out of the ground with a ferocious pull. Parthiv, on the other hand, was judicious.
Good toss to lose
<b1>To begin with, it was a good toss to lose for Chennai. Mohali captain Yuvraj Singh elected to bat, possibly influenced by Friday's semifinal where Delhi wilted under the pressure of a big Jaipur total. But the seaming conditions at the Wankhede Stadium were exploited well by Ntini and Gony. And unlike Jaipur, Mohali could not come up with a big total.
Muralitharan opens bowling
As the Chennai players took field, it came as a surprise to the crowd and possibly to the facing batsman Marsh himself to see the Murali walking up to the umpire, handing over his cap and asking for the ball. The first ball was smoothly driven to the cover boundary and the over was confidently negotiated. Although Muralitharan was taken off, he had sowed enough doubts in the openers’ minds. The regular seamers continued and reaped a rich harvest thereafter. Murali returned in the 11th over and accounted for Piyush Chawla who he got with the one tossed up that straightened.
But for the drive off the first ball of the innings and a near perfect straight drive off Ntini, Marsh did not really look like the player who has dominated the tournament. He got a six off Ntini but it was a top edge of a pull that flew high over 'keeper's head. His second pull in the over took an inside edge and went past the stumps to the boundary.
The wickets falling at the other end seemed to have put the Aussie under pressure. Particularly the dismissal of Yuvraj. With runs drying up, Yuvraj went for big shots. And when Gony sent down a short one in the fourth over, he went on his back foot and pulled it powerfully only to see Muralitharan pluck the ball from the air at widish mid on. Marsh followed, playing Ntini on to his stumps.
The rest of the Mohali batsmen looked out of sorts. Kumar Sangakkara did an Adam Gilchrist by walking. He tried to drive a ball angled away by Gony and possibly edged it. Parthiv did not even appeal when he caught the ball. Gony too was not sure. But the batsman walked. Ntini and Gony bowled good spells and got their basics right. They could get bounce off the track and utilised whatever little movement the pitch provided.
Mohali - Shaun Marsh, James Hopes, Kumar Sangakkara (wk), Yuvraj Singh (c), Mahela Jayawardene, Irfan Pathan, Wilkin Mota, Piyush Chawla, Ramesh Powar, VRV Singh, S. Sreesanth.
Chennai- Parthiv Patel (wk), S Vidyut, Suresh Raina, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (c), Chamara Kapugedera, S Badrinath, Albie Morkel, Manpreet Gony, L Balaji, Muttiah Muralitharan, Makhaya Ntini.