The large bhangra troupe danced to near empty stands at the PCA Stadium. Daler Mehndi tried his best to get the sparse crowd groove to his numbers. But the spectators, displaying a great sense of ‘punctuality’, trooped in just a few minutes before the start of play.
What the crowd, which later swelled to around 25,000, missed in terms of off-field entertainment, was more than made up by some lusty hitting by Chennai IPL’s Michael Hussey. The Australian hit nine sixes and eight boundaries during his unbeaten knock of 116 (54 balls) as the visiting team set up a mammoth 240. And though Mohali fought well, they fell 33 runs short.
The self-effacing left-hander put down his spectacular effort to good luck and the short boundaries. “The straight boundaries were quite short and I tried to take advantage of that…luckily, it came off today, but it might not work on some other day,” he said.
Hussey has already stamped his class in Tests and one-day internationals. The only aberration in his glittering career was Twenty20. He averaged a poor 22.83, fuelling speculation that he might not be able to adjust to the slam-bang razzmatazz.
Hussey, apparently, didn’t like it and was perhaps waiting to set the record straight. And he chose to do it in his very first IPL match. That it came against an attack boasting of the likes of Brett Lee, S. Sreesanth and Irfan Pathan added lustre to the knock.
However, the left-hander refused to get drawn into the game of numbers. “Look, I don’t believe in numbers and averages. I prefer to judge someone by the way he handles and performs in pressure situations,” he said.
The Saturday crowd was not exactly divided on the lines of team colours. The English Premier League style of fan following, where hardcore buffs come to a match in their favourite team jerseys is yet to catch up here.
But the eruption of joy when Chennai’s Parthiv Patel got out confirmed which side the crowd was on. As Preity Zinta cheered her team from the stands, James Hopes (71) set his team up for the chase with some big hitting. And captain Yuvraj Singh too tried to keep up the run rate. But Muralitharan bowled well to contain Mohali batsmen at a time when they were going at over 10.