The Telegraph
Thursday , April 5 , 2012
Since 1st March, 1999
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Mumbai Indians begin in style

- Levi scripts 8-wicket victory with 35-ball 50; Ojha, Pollard shine
Captain Harbhajan Singh celebrates with teammates the fall of a Chennai Super Kings’ wicket, on Wednesday

Chennai: South Africa’s Twenty20 sensation Richard Levi made an instant impression with his batting prowess as Mumbai Indians thrashed defending champions Chennai Super Kings by eight wickets, in the opening match of the fifth edition of Indian Premier League.

Chasing a modest target of 113, Levi who has recently scored the fastest T20 International century, set the tone as he clobbered the CSK bowlers to race away to a fine 50 with six fours and three sixes on his IPL debut. He added 69 for the first wicket with Sachin Tendulkar before being caught in the deep. By then, however, Mumbai Indians were cruising towards victory. They finally won with 19 balls to spare when Ambati Rayadu slashed Doug Bollinger over third-man for a six.

Predominantly an on-side player, all the three sixes Levi hit were in the arc between deep mid-wicket and long-on. Levi doesn’t have much of a backlift and his footwork is minimal but that doesn’t deter him from hitting the big shots.

Tendulkar (16 retired hurt), despite playing second fiddle to Levi also entertained the crowd as he smashed Albie Morkel over extra cover for a huge six.

The senior batsman, however, left the field when an ugly bouncer from Bollinger seemed to have hurt a finger on his left hand.

Earlier, captain Harbhajan’s decision to bowl first seemed to be spot on as the Mumbai Indians bowled out defending champions Chennai Super Kings for a paltry 112 in only 19.4 overs.

The newly-laid 22-yard strip which had some patches of grass on either side turned out to be a nightmare for strokeplayers as most of the home team batsmen failed to check their shots and were bundled out for a less-than-competitive score.

While the MI bowlers stuck to their task, the CSK batsmen helped their cause as three of them including skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni were run-out. Lasith Malinga (two for 16), Pragyan Ojha (two for 17) and Kieron Pollard (two for 15) all got vital breakthroughs.

Mumbai Indians got the breakthrough in the very first over when Faf du Plessis (3) failed to beat Ambati Rayudu’s direct throw after Murali Vijay tapped the ball to extra-cover for a quick single.

Vijay, who has had an indifferent first-class season was not in his elements as he failed to clear the field. As he was getting bogged down, left-arm seamer James Franklin’s clever change of pace did the trick. The Tamil Nadu opener couldn’t connect what has been a trademark flicked-six over deep mid-wicket.

Instead, rival skipper Harbhajan, standing on the edge of the 30-yard circle, gobbled up an easy catch. Vijay could muster only 10 runs off 17 balls. The leading scorer of the IPL, Suresh Raina began well. The left-hander effortlessly lifted pacer Abu Nechim Ahmed over long-off for a six. He also hit a couple of boundaries on his way to 36 before Ojha sent him back into the dug-out.

None of the batsmen, barring Raina, got going and when skipper Dhoni was run-out, the last season’s Champions suddenly found themselves in untreaded territory.