Malinga's warning shot, Warne's last hurrah
The Malinga warning shot
In the first game of the IPL, the bright orange shoes that some of the players wore caught the eye. From then on batsmen's shoes played the role of targets for Lasith Malinga's scorching yorkers. He set the marker down with his second ball of the tournament, fired in at the base of David Warner's stumps and sending the bails on a long-haul flight. Such was the threat Malinga posed that Virender Sehwag, for whom maidens are an alien concept, played one out in Malinga's next over. By the end of the tournament, Malinga had taken 28 wickets and the purple cap had been remodelled into a purple hat.
The destruction of gravity
The front end of the tournament was played in the haze of a World Cup hangover, and nothing seemed worse affected by the visible tiredness in some of the players than the standard of fielding. Catches went to ground with a Kamran Akmal-esque regularity in the first week. Then, at the Wankhede Satdium, Kieron Pollard pulled off one of those juggling acts on the boundary that have become to the IPL what the rabona is to football. Pollard sprang up to clutch a Ravindra Jadeja shot that seemed destined for a six, then realising he was going to land outside the field threw the ball back in and got up quickly enough to restrict the batsmen to a single. That match had a century from Sachin Tendulkar, Davy Jacobs standing up to Malinga and a remarkable chase from Kochi Tuskers Kerala, but it was the leap from Pollard that exemplified the flair element the IPL boasts off.
The bold prediction
It wasn't quite the equivalent of Shane Warne tweeting the India-England World Cup match would end in a tie, but for Mahela Jayawardene to say his Kochi team could defend a score of 130-140 in an IPL match was certainly perceptive, considering the tournament is moulded to serve up high-scoring thrillers. Jayawardene calmly gave notice of what his side were targeting after Kolkata Knight Riders had put them in. They never seemed in a hurry on their way to 132, and sure enough they defended it by six runs.
Virender Sehwag may not have been entrusted with holding up the sky, but he certainly had the entire weight of his Delhi Daredevils team rested squarely on his shoulders. The early part of the tournament hadn't gone well for him and he found his troubles compounded by a minefield of a pitch in Kochi. As Sehwag stood at the non-striker's end he watched a ball from Sreesanth shoot along the ground and bowl his opening partner David Warner. Sehwag turned to the umpire and held his arms up in protest. Rather than give in to frustration though, he shrugged off the situation and composed himself to build a masterful 80 - an innings that despite Chris Gayle's later belligerence stands out as the classiest of the tournament. Justification of that statement is in the reading of the scorecard, which will tell you no other batsman in the game got past 31.
The tuk-tuk train
Chris Gayle came into the IPL with a point to prove. He had gone unsold in the original auction and was then left out of the West Indies squad for the first two one-dayers against Pakistan, before Dirk Nannes' injury opened up a spot at Royal Challengers Bangalore. No wonder then than his first few innings carried with them an undertone of vengeance, mercilessly unleashed on whoever his opponents were. By the time Bangalore played Kings XI Punjab at home, though, he was just enjoying it. After smacking 107 off 49 balls, Gayle celebrated each of his three wickets by flapping his arms around, punching the air and chugging around like a locomotive. The "tuk-tuk train" celebration, he called it. It didn't run out of steam till the final.
The silence when Sourav Ganguly's named was called at the auction was treated as a snub not just to the man but to the nation's ethos. How could the man who had lent teeth to the lambs of Indian cricket, the man who had left Steve Waugh waiting at the toss, the man who had whirled his shirt around his head on the balcony at Lord's be left out of a tournament that claimed to be the Indian Premier League. When "Dada" finally played his first game for Pune Warriors, after joining them as a replacement for Ashish Nehra, one fan was so overcome with emotion he ran on to the field in Hyderabad and fell at Ganguly's feet in reverence.
Warne's last hurrah Knowing it was his to be his last tournament as a professional cricketer, Shane Warne attempted to encapsulate his entire career into the six weeks. Moments of brilliance were marred by a controversy regarding the Jaipur pitch that eventually saw him fined $50,000 for a spat with Rajasthan Cricket Association secretary Sanjay Dixit. In his farewell match, against Mumbai Indians, it looked until his last over that Warne's exit would be anticlimactic. Then, in the 20th over of Mumbai's innings, Warne reminded everyone of why most rate him as the best legspinner of all time. He got Rohit Sharma to top-edge a slog-sweep, only to see the chance put down; then he had James Franklin driving uppishly at a googly. With the fourth ball, he drew Rohit out, beat him with flight and turn, and grabbed his last wicket in cricket.
The timely washout
Despite having added two more teams, leading to a longer tournament, the IPL managed to go to within a week of its close without a completely meaningless match being played. That record was set to be spoiled in Delhi, where the last-placed hosts were to take on the ninth-placed Pune Warriors in a dead rubber. As if the gods themselves were determined to maintain the IPL's reputation for constant competitiveness, the heavens opened and washed out the inconsequential game with just ten overs bowled.
The Javed Miandad moment
Until its last week, the IPL had been fairly kind to supporters' hearts, with nerve-wracking finishes in significantly rarer supply than previous seasons. The last match of the IPL seemed set for a facile end as well, with Mumbai needing an improbable 44 runs off 18 balls to deny Kolkata a place in the top two. Even though they knocked off 23 of those in the 18th and 19th overs, with 21 needed off the last over Kolkata fans were still looking calm. Then, James Franklin got away four boundaries off L Balaji, through a combination of skill and luck, and it came down to four needed off one ball. Balaji, who had a solid tournament till then served up a Chetan Sharma-esque full toss on middle stump, and Rayudu sent it into the stands at midwicket.
The sickening blow
The term violent is used loosely in the IPL, to describe particularly quick knocks or shots that travel a distance. But what happened to R Ashwin in the first Qualifier really was brutal in the true sense of the word. In the 18th over, Saurabh Tiwary stepped down the wicket to him and hit one back with such ferocity Ashwin didn't have time to either set himself for a return catch or get out of the way. He was hit on the head so hard the ball ricocheted all the way to long-off. Ashwin looked dazed, but luckily wasn't badly hurt.
Pollard gets Pollarded
In the group stage, Kieron Pollard had nearly taken the catch of the tournament against Kochi. In the Eliminator, with Mumbai already on the brink of defeat, he had to watch as Abhimanyu Mithun bettered his effort by actually holding on to one that seemed destined for six. Mithun set himself at long-off, even as the Mumbai players made way for the ball to land in their dug-out. Realising that if he jumped, he would lose balance and fall backwards over the rope, Mithun leaned back and contorted his body in a way that he held on to the ball and managed to stay just inside the boundary. Pollard could only shake his head.
The final blow
With 205 on the board in the final, Chennai could already smell a second IPL success. One thing, though, was keeping premature celebrations in check. Chris Gayle, with 608 runs in the IPL at an average over 70 and strike-rate of almost 200, was opening for the opposition. R Ashwin, so often given the new ball by MS Dhoni was charged with getting rid of Gayle early. He spun two sharply past Gayle, and with the fourth ball of the over had Gayle edging one that skidded on. Chennai knew that was the killer blow, and Suresh Raina came charging from midwicket to rugby tackle Ashwin in celebration.