For about one hour before any of the Mumbai Indians player walked out for pre-match training, James Franklin was out facing the gentle medium pace from Robin Singh and Aiden Blizzard. But all the hard work put in by the left-handed batsman was undone, an over into the game against Royal Challengers Bangalore on Wednesday.
As Vinay Kumar bowled a bouncer, Franklin (1) could do no more than upper cut to be caught at third man. And that was the story of MI's innings as the rest of the Mumbai batting also stumbled, threatening to implode. But Dinesh Karthik (41) and a late surge by skipper Harbhajan Singh (21) and Kieron Pollard (20) helped the home team post a competitive 141 for six against the Challengers.
Although Lasith Malinga and RP Singh began really well against Tillakaratne Dilshan and Chris Gayle, the pressure quickly vanished as the explosive pair took charge and put Mumbai Indians' lacklustre batting in perspective. Although the Sri Lankan went early, Gayle, as is his approach these days, started cautiously before cutting loose to carry RCB to a thumping nine-wicket victory with two overs to spare.
Once Franklin was dismissed, Rohit Sharma was trapped in front of middle and leg by Kumar in the same over. At the other end, Sachin Tendulkar (24) seemed out of sorts as Zaheer Khan bowled an excellent length to beat him on a few occasions. However, Tendulkar shrugged it off to strike a few confident boundaries, including his trademark straight drive.
But Tendulkar fell top-edging an attempted pull against a Harshal Patel short delivery, as Mumbai were in rough waters at 41 for three after 8.3 overs. It was then upto Karthik, who had been on an unimpressive run with the bat in the current season, to stabilise the team.
Gayle and Dilshan (19) added 48 for the first wicket but a howler from umpire Billy Bowden saw Dilshan walk back. Pragyan Ohja's delivery lobbed off Dilshan's front pad as he tried to sweep but the Kiwi umpire upheld wicketkeeper Karthik's appeal for catch.
However, with Gayle at the crease, the match was always under RCB's control. Three consecutive sixes by Gayle off Ojha brought the dash of aggression in his innings.