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Lendl Simmons and Michael Hussey shared a solid opening stand to take Mumbai Indians to a much-needed win © IANS (File Photo)

By Abhijit Banare

Sep 14, 2014

Lendl Simmons (76 not out) and Michael Hussey (60) put on a solid opening stand of 139 in 88 balls as Mumbai Indians cruised to a comfortable nine-wicket win over Southern Express in the fourth qualifier match of the Champions League T20 2014 (CLT20) at Raipur on Sunday. By virtue of this win, Mumbai stay in contention for qualifying for main stage while the CLT20 2014 journey is all but over for Express.

Sloppy show in the outfield and dropped catches had allowed Southern Express to get away past 150 despite getting off to a poor start. Their top-scorer Farveez Maharoof had given an easy catch early in his innings but Shreyas Gopal messed up that sitter. A target of 162 was going to put a lot of pressure on the Mumbai batting. They were already under fire for not having enough resources and playing with five bowlers. But the openers stood up to the occasion absorbing the pressure at the start and then cashed in on the chance with big hits.

Simmons and Hussey looked watchful early on. Simmons though managed to get a boundary or two quickly which calmed the nerves down. The Express pacers made the openers earn their runs thereby by pushing the required rate further. Simmons was lucky that the thick edges flew past the boundary lines which kept things under control for Mumbai.

With the experience and quality of these two batsmen, it was always tough to keep them tied down. Despite a rusty start, Hussey kept his calm. They managed only 39 in the powerplay and the required rate had crept up towards nine. The sticky nature of the wicket was frustrating the openers. They still managed to stitch a gritty partnership and kept the required rate at around nine. It was only towards the 10th over, they played some fluent shots.

Hussey and Simmons started timing the big hits with ease. It was one of the partnerships which will give them immense confidence as they fought hard for the runs and once in the groove made it count by scoring briskly. Hussey’s success also means that Mumbai are unlikely to fiddle with the opening pair for the next match keeping Corey Anderson out.

Coming back to the chase, the solid opening stand and a calculated approach from the openers ensured that the match was tilting towards Mumbai. It surely looked like an easy chase when Hussey started hitting sixes over covers the required rate dipped below eight. From 56 for no loss in eight overs, they galloped to 92 in 11 overs.

And from thereon, both the batsmen went ballistic as Simmons completed his fifty followed by Hussey. The sixes and fours kept flowing from the bat. The openers together hit four sixes and 16 boundaries. Though Hussey was dismissed for 60, Kieron Pollard came at No 3 and hit three sixes to finish off the chase in less than 17 overs.

Earlier, things started off on the right note as Pollard won the toss and had no hesitation in electing to bowl. The bowlers made a disciplined start giving Mumbai the edge early in the game. The regular fall of wickets further troubled Express. But their batsmen managed to play small cameos thanks to numerous reprieves. Jonty Rhodes and Robin Singh — the fielding coaches — hung their heads in shame as the balls slipped through the legs of fielders and high catches continued to be floored. At the end of 15 overs they were still going at less than seven an over. But Maharoof, Angelo Perera and Seekkuge Prasanna used the long handle to good effect.

In the end, the target was too easy for Mumbai. This crushing defeat has virtually put Southern Express out of contention from qualifiers as they have to beat Lahore Lions by a huge margin. On the other hand, Mumbai have done good to their chances as they not only chased down quickly but the other contender Lahore went down by a huge margin to Northern Knights which will hurt their chances. Mumbai next face the Knights and the equation for them is pretty simple, beat them and qualify for main draw.

Brief scores:

Southern Express 161 for 6 in 20 overs (Dhanushka Gunathilaka 30, Angelo Perera 28, Farveez Maharoof 41*; Kieron Pollard 1 for 18, Jasprit Bumrah 1 for 23) lost to Mumbai Indians 165 for 1 in 16.2 overs (Michael Hussey 60, Lendl Simmons 76*; Sachith Pathirana 1 for 20) by 9 wickets.

Man of the Match: Lendl Simmons

Full Scorecard

Complete coverage of Champions League T20 2014 here

(Abhijit Banare is a reporter at CricketCountry. He is an avid quizzer and loves to analyse and dig out interesting facts which allows him to learn something new every day. Apart from cricket he also likes to keep a sharp eye on Indian politics, and can be followed on Twitter and blog)