The Mumbai Indians are rarely on the back-foot, but Friday was an exception. Pitted against some quality spin, reckless stroke-play on a sluggish wicket saw them go down without a whimper.
Sachin Tendulkar, who had drawn hordes of Jaipurites to the Sawai Man Singh Stadium, flattered to deceive. He opened the matinee show with a sweetly-timed four through covers off the first ball he faced. But the victim of that boundary, part-time spinner Ashok Menaria, got even, making the maestro dance to his tune.
Menaria gave it flight and the slow delivery beat Tendulkar to have him stumped. The much-hyped Shane Warne-Tendulkar rivalry had been nipped in the bud.
Menaria was joined by Warne, and then Johan Botha took over, the trio applying the brakes and picking up wickets regularly to dismiss the powerful batting line-up for 94.
It wasn’t something the crowd, braving the heat, had come to witness. You could see the restlessness as the slow wicket made cricket tedious and runs hard to come by.
After Tendulkar’s dismissal, Warne got into the act, pitching the ball around Rohit Sharma’s legs and moving it away to make things tough. He then pitched one around middle and off and Rohit, sensing a chance, tried to loft it over long-off.
The only problem was he couldn’t time it as well and was caught. As Warne bowled, his partner, Liz Hurley, looked enchanted by the spinner’s magic. Botha joined the party and snared the big two in the middle order.
Andrew Symonds too missed the line and pace and was bowled while trying to slog sweep. MI were six down for just 81 and it was already the 18th over. With just 94 to defend, MI started well, tightening things up for Rahul Dravid, who perished to Munaf Patel while trying to break the shackles.