Mumbai Indians (MI) put up a superb all-round performance crushing Chennai Super Kings (CSK) by 25 runs to enter the final of the eighth edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) in Mumbai on Tuesday. This is the third time Mumbai have entered the final, after 2010 and 2013.
Mumbai Indians scored 187 for six largely due to a brilliant cameo from Kieron Pollard who smashed a 17-ball-41 after a solid platform was laid by Lendl Simmons' 65 off 51 balls.
In reply, CSK's much-vaunted batting line-up could muster only 162 all out in 19 overs as none of the top-order batsmen went on to play a match-winning knock.
Such was the domination by the home team that Mumbai were almost always on top in the match.
But five-time finalists and two-time champions CSK will get another crack during the second Qualifier to be played in Mahendra Singh Dhoni's hometown Ranchi.
The telling blow was dealt by Harbhajan Singh (2/26 in 4 overs), who removed the dangerous Suresh Raina (25) and skipper MS Dhoni (0) off successive deliveries to swing the match decisively in MI's favour. Lasith Malinga (3/23) and R Vinay Kumar (2/26) did play their part as well as MI have now won nine out of 11 matches.
Faf du Plessis (45) played well but just like Raina was deceived by the slow nature of the pitch while going for a big hit.
Opener Dwayne Smith (0) received a rough decision from umpire Richard Illingworth off Lasith Malinga's bowling and Mike Hussey (16) showed that he is still rusty having not played much in the last month-and-a-half.
Dwayne Bravo (20) got a reprieve when Harbhajan dropped him off his own bowling to miss out on his third victim.
However the man from Jalandhar made a lot of difference during his four overs as he was slower through the air and tossing the ball up. One such tossed up delivery saw Raina failing to check his shot and offer a simple return catch.
Dhoni tried an ambitious sweep shot off the first delivery that was flighted on the off-middle channel and was caught plumb in-front. Bravo averted the hat-trick but could have been gone soon after as he was bamboozled by the flight but Harbhajan messed it up big time.
It didn't cost them much as a smart piece of work in the field from Parthiv Patel and Pollard saw Bravo heading back to pavilion after being run out. Once Bravo was back in the dug-out, CSK's chances were practically over.
Earlier, Simmons started in style with a well-crafted 65 while Pollard blasted 41 to finish with a flourish as Mumbai Indians scored 187 for six in 20 overs after opting to bat first.
Simmons, who notched up his fifth half century of the competition, struck five sixes and three fours in his 51-ball innings. Along with Parthiv (35), Simmons provided a solid opening stand of 90 runs at nearly 9 runs an over before MI lost quick wickets between the 11th and 16th overs to be in some sort of bother at 139 for 4.
It was then left to fellow Trinidadian Pollard to smash five huge sixes along with a boundary in just 17 balls to take MI closer to the 200-run mark.
For league's table toppers CSK, Dwayne Bravo was the pick of the bowlers with figures of 3 for 40 and was mainly responsible for MI not reaching a bigger score after their splendid start. Ashish Nehra was fairly economical with 1 for 28 from four overs.
CSK used off-spinner R Ashwin to open the bowling with left-arm seam bowler Nehra and had things under control in the first two overs.
However, Simmons carted Ashwin in his third over, beyond the straight field and then over the mid-wicket region for two sixes. Simmons, who has been in fine form from the time he came in as replacement for the injured Aaron Finch, then struck a third six - onto the sight screen - off Nehra in the last over of play.
And when Ravindra Jadeja came to bowl the 8th over, the West Indian smacked him over long on for another six to keep the run-rate hovering around the eight-run mark.
Left-handed Patel, kept quiet at the other end, went after Pawan Negi by lashing a six over long on and then striking two more fours in the 9th over to increase MI's run-rate.
Simmons completed his 5th half-century of the season off 38 balls in the tenth over at the end of which MI had advanced to 86 for no loss with Simmons on 51 and Patel on 32.
Dhoni summoned his 'Crisis Man' Bravo to stem the run flow and the ebullient West Indian all-rounder struck by having Patel caught at long on to reach a landmark of 100 IPL victims in his 89th IPL game overall.
Pollard then joined MI skipper Rohit Sharma and immediately started controlling the pace by clouting two sixes in one Negi over as the score leapt to 135 for 2 at the end of 15 overs. It was Pollard who kept hitting big shots as MI reached 187 in the end.