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The CSK-RCB Qualifier, the CSK-MI IPL 8 final

May 23, 2015
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Michael Hussey walks off after killing it in Qualifier 2 against RCB

John Arlott wrote about it in 1948 at the end of a successful tour of England by Don Bradman’s men. “”Australianism,” wrote Arlott, “means single-minded determination to win – to win within the laws but, if necessary, to the last limit within them. It means where the ‘impossible’ is within the realm of what the human body can do, there are Australians who believe that they can do it – and who have succeeded often enough to make us wonder if anything is impossible to them. It means they have never lost a match – particularly a Test match – until the last run is scored or their last wicket down.”

It would be too much of a stretch to compare Mike Hussey’s innings at Ranchi last night to his Gros Islet heist against Pakistan in the 2010 World Twenty20 semifinal but its easy to see the kind of belief that drives him to play such knocks even when all else around him is turning to shit.

Watching Hussey in the Qualifier, working the field against a disciplined RCB attack (albeit backed by butterfingered fielding) and then finding the release to change gears when it was time was a masterclass in pacing a chase. Against MI and Mitchell McClenaghan, he felt beaten for pace but he bounced back well enough to play against Mitchell Starc and company, on a dicey pitch that few batsmen from either line up could comfortably get the measure of. Earlier when RCB were batting, he had run in a distance from deep square leg and dived full length to send back Mandeep Singh, RCB’s hero from the previous game. Pushing 40 and still fighting, driven by Australianism of course. Hope he makes amends on Sunday for the final he had against Mumbai in 2013.

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Sticking to appreciating all that is old, Nehraji is gold. The set up to get Kohli after getting sick of taking stick, the luck against AB and getting Karthik went a long way in deciding an ultimately close game. The goofy jog to attempt a flying Jonty to run out Harshal, deciding midway to throw the ball at the stumps and then completely missing them from so close made it more special. Classic hopeless Nehra temporarily surfacing from under the skillful operator hauling wickets for CSK this season. He couldn’t play the 2011 World Cup final after playing an important role in winning us the semi. Here’s hoping he shines in the biggest final he gets to play in a while.

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You have to wonder if having played Chennai earlier in the tournament would have helped Chris Gayle. Figuring out the pitch was a task in itself, let alone figuring out the variants of CSK’s bowling attack. Dhoni anyway denied him any chances by holding back Jadeja and Negi. Gayle eventually made 41 off 43b; would having faced Nehra, Ashwin, Mohit, Bravo and Raina earlier have helped him bat quicker and get those 15-20 runs Kohli said RCB fell short by? RCB and Kohli have a whole year to wonder (lesser if the rumoured mini IPL in October goes ahead).

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RCB will rue the fielding lapses considering how close they came despite them. Gayle nullified his runs by dropping du Plessis and Harshal Patel might have dreams in which he takes that leap to grab Hussey’s chance microseconds earlier, pouching it successfully. The shoddiness undermined yet another good show by an attack in the tournament, the lesser heralded force behind the team’s first playoff finish since 2011.

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Pollard and Bhajji may be absolute tools but both have done well against CSK and in big games for Mumbai and their records deserve some due preparation. Playing on the Ranchi pitch should help in preparing to face the latter at Eden Gardens while Jadeja and Negi will have to bowl out of their skins to keep the former quiet, there’s no guarantee Dhoni can hide them long enough in the final.

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Ashwin found a responsive surface at the JSCA and immediately was unplayable, finishing with 1/13. The final, on another spin-friendly pitch at the Eden Gardens will pit him against Harbhajan, with whom he will be bowling in the lone Test against Bangladesh next month. If he needs any motivation, this competition with Harbhajan should help him, on Sunday and beyond.

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In fantasy cricket, I still suck.

Current ranking with One match to go.

Current ranking with ONE match to go.

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