The Mumbai Indians players were into their pre-game warm-up routine, with some joking around. Coach Jonh Wright though was engaged in a conversation with the team’s West Indies batsman Lendl Simmons.
Skipper Rohit Sharma, Ben Dunk, Michael Hussey and Aditya Tare had all had a shot at laying a platform from which Kieron Pollard and Corey Anderson could launch attacks, but none had shown a semblance of fight opening the innings. CM Gautam, promoted to the top only two games ago, had been the lone bright spot.
Mumbai Indians now hoped Simmons, an injury replacement for Jalaj Saxena, could be the answer to their opening woes. Chennai Super Kings asked Mumbai to set them a target at a buzzing Wankhede on Saturday evening. As Simmons walked out with Gautam, CSK unleashed the leg spin of fellow Trinidadian, Samuel Badree, on a wicket that offered turn.
Badree deceived Gautam but Simmons won the battle of the Caribbean players. Two towering sixes, one each over long on and long off, meant Simmons did not allow the leg-spinner to settle down after the early wicket. It was a relief after MI’s worrying trend this season where one opener’s dismissal was often followed by that of his partner’s.
Simmons supported Ambati Rayudu, striking a couple of boundaries to ease the pressure of the new man. By the time Simmons (38) fell to R Ashwin, 77 runs were on the board.
At the other end, after being dropped on five by Badree at third man, Rayudu continued to make room outside leg and struck the spinners for straight boundaries.
What followed was a clever spell of spin, Ashwin flighting the ball and mixing them with carrom balls. He chipped in with the crucial wickets of Rohit and Pollard.
Anderson landed a few lusty blows, Chennai Super Kings restricted the hosts to 157 for six. MS Dhoni’s side had won their earlier clash in the UAE but Mumbai were desperate to win and lift themselves from the bottom half of the table.
But Dwayne Smith reminded his former team what they had missed by letting him go, producing a fluent half-century. His innings however ended after a 51-ball 57 (5x4 3x6) as Praveen Kumar continued his impressive IPL return with his second wicket.
Just when it appeared Chennai would run away with an easy win, Lasith Malinga struck to bowl both Faf du Plessis and Ravindra Jadeja off his successive overs to give Mumbai a glimmer of hope.
However, with 11 runs to get off the last over and with Dhoni at the crease, few would bet against the CSK skipper. And he finished it off in style, smashing Kieron Pollard for a six and four to seal victory with three balls to spare.
Chennai stay at second but MI slipped to eighth, only ahead of bottom-ranked Delhi Daredevils with playoff hopes fast vanishing.