Raipur: Openers Lendl Simmons and Mike Hussey struck commanding fifties to hand Mumbai Indians a resounding 9-wicket win over Sri Lankan outfit Southern Express and keep their team in the hunt for the main draw of the Oppo Champions League Twenty20, here on Sunday.
Chasing 162 for a win in the qualifying match, Mumbai rode a clinical 139-run opening stand between Simmons (76 not out) and Hussey (60 off 40 deliveries) to achieve their target in 16.2 overs. The veteran Australian left-hander, hitting 5 fours and 3 sixes, and West Indian Simmons, his 51-ball knock laced with 11 fours and a six, combined like fire and ice to make batting look simple and the Express bowling attack look pedestrian.
Hussey's charge ended in the 15th over with leg-spinner Sachith Pathirana getting him caight at deep square leg. But Lendl carried on and in a fitting end, skipper Kieron Pollard (20 no out) hit two powerful sixes to complete the formalities for Mumbai, who had lost their first qualifier against Lahore Lions.
Earlier put into bat, Southern Express rode Farveez Maharoof's 22-ball 41 to post 161 for 6 in 20 overs.
Maharoof though was given a huge life by Shreyas Gopal, who dropped the all-rounder on 6, after spilling a sitter at long-off on Pragyan Ojha's bowling. The lanky player made the most it as he hit 3 fours and 2 sixes and stitched a crucial 58-run sixth-wicket partnership with Angelo Perera (28) to give the visitors respectability after losing half their side for 90.
Mumbai new-ball bowlers, Harbhajan Singh (0-18) and Jasprit Bumrah (1-23) bowled a tight line to restrict the batsmen to just 27 runs in the powerplay overs. Bumrah drew first blood in the fourth over of the innings after scalping opener Kusal Perera, who got a top edge as Gopal caught a skier, for 8. Left-handed opener Danushka Gunathilaka then tried to do the grinding with new-man Yashodha Lanka. The duo stitched a 27-run second-wicket partnership before Pollard (1-18) took matters in his own hands.
Medium-pacer Pollard's slower delivery sent Lanka back in the pavilion after being caught by Ambati Rayudu for 9 in the eight over.
The slide continued till Maharoof stepped to counter attack.
Off-spinner Jalaj Saxena (1-3) soon got Gunathilaka (30) caught by Harbhajan in the very next over to put the Lankan side in trouble at 50 for three. Express captain Jehan Mubarak then tried to quicken things up with a six and a four but soon left-arm spinner Ojha (1-35) cleaned up the left-hander for 14. Leg-spinner Gopal (0-29) was taken for 17 runs in the 12th over with Express batsmen getting a couple sixes and a four to regain some momentum.
But a horrendous mix up in the 14th over made Express lose half their side as Seekkuge Prasanna (15) was run out at the non-strikers end after being stranded with striker Angelo Perera (28) in trying to sneak in a single. A sloppy effort in the field gave Maharoof a life against Ojha on the first ball of the 17th over and a missed stumping on the third ball gave Perera a lifeline.
Gopal, after giving Maharoof a life, made a mess of a fielding chance at deep point to concede a boundary and a frustrated Ojha saw 13 runs come off his third over. Maharoof soon made Mumbai pay after smacking Ojha for a six and couple of fours to fetch 18 runs from the penultimate over. Maharoof finished the innings with a six and a four.