It’s A Long Way to Shepton Mallet – – – It’s A Long Way to Go

For Somerset the dream is over.  And so is their long, long season.  The Mumbai Indians proved a step too far in the 2nd semi-final of the 2011 Champions League T20.

In the end, individual brilliance purchased with millions of dollars – for the game now deals and measures everything in US Greenbacks – won the day. 

With the slightly above par score of 160 to defend, the mighty Lasith Malinga  in his first spell of two overs for the Indians removed the dangerous pair of Trego for nought and van de Merwe for 10.

Kieswetter and Hildreth sensibly and skilfully reconstructed the innings from these ruins and carefully built a platform from which Somerset could push for victory in the last four overs, but into their deliberate calculations they had always to factor that Malinga would return to bowl two of these.

The Indians’ captain Harhbajan Singh chose to play his ace in the 18th over at the end of which Somerset, despite scoring only 7 from it, needed an obtainable 22 from 12 balls.

At this point Harbhajan of the volcanic ego had to still his mind and make the key tactical decision of the match; who should bowl over 19?  He, as captain, and as Super Ego must have felt under enormous pressure to take the responsibility to himself without further thought.

 

There was also available the hugely experienced Pollard.  But as Baji mentally scanned the bowling figures, he would have seen that Franklin’s figures of 2 overs for 9 runs reached up in supplication like a child’s hand in a class room eager to answer. The decision was taken.

This proved the pivotal point of the match – the moment, as Third Man wrote recently, which only Chaos Theory could fully explain. Franklin’s first ball was full and Buttler smeared it towards cow corner for a two or a four.  By a millimetre and a nanosecond the four was saved by a frantic, sprawling, sliding Pollard.

His second ball was equally inviting and as it travelled towards Buttler, Franklin, Harbhajan, his team, his dugout and thousands of Mumbai Indian supporters will have closed their eyes and seen behind the lids their chances of remaining in the tournament rapidly recede.

Had they looked they would indeed have seen Buttler slap the ball hard back down the track on its way to the straight boundary where it belonged. No fielder could stop it.  But nor could the non-striking Kieswetter get out of its way.  It struck the Somerset opener squarely above the elbow, to make it a dot ball. (One day an Umpire will be killed in a similar incident.  Could a Billy Bowden duck such a return?)

The counterfactual scoreboard stood at 147/3, with 14 to win from 10 balls.  The ‘small difference in initial conditions’ (the minute disparity between a ball missing or hitting Kieswetter) yielded, in the chaotic system which is a cricket match, the widely divergent outcome of  Somerset being required to score 20 from those self same deliveries with their major batsman carrying a deadened top arm. 

There was no way back through the gate of time for Somerset – a butterfly had beaten its wing somewhere in the world and this was the consequence in Chennai.

Buttler was bowled next ball.  The 19th over went for only 7 runs with Compton steadfastly improvising a four from the last ball. But this still left Somerset to make 14 to win (or 13 to gain a super over play off) from a 20th over to be bowled by the immense Malinga.

There would be no further widely divergent outcomes from the six balls that remained.  They brought forth only four more runs and entailed two further wickets to leave Somerset 10 runs short – a chasm – and Malinga, with figures of 4 – 20, all clean bowled, the powerful claim to be the best-value player in T20 cricket … bar Gayle or bar none.

Best value?  Yes, for that is now the key measure in this form of the game. The difference between winning and losing this match was $800,000.  The beaten semi-finalists take home $500,000, the runner up $1.3 million, the winner $2.5 million.

That is a lot of ammunition with which to build a team for next year’s domestic T20 competition and the prospect of another campaign in the Champions League 2012.

The Man Ufication of cricket has begun.  

 Mumbai Indians 160 – 5 beat Somerset 150 for 7 by 10 runs in the 2nd semi-final.

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