The best batting unit of all IPL seasons
Where they finished
Kings XI Punjab were runners-up, having lost the final to Kolkata Knight Riders. They had finished first in the league stage, their 11 wins in 14 matches putting them four points clear of the next best team.
What went right
Quite a lot, because Kings XI finished in the top four of the league stage for the first time since coming second in the inaugural IPL season in 2008. They had gone into the 2014 player auction with a purse as large as Knight Riders and Sunrisers Hyderabad, but smaller than that of Delhi Daredevils, and emerged the most improved squad - brimming with big-ticket batsmen.
They did not disappoint. Kings XI were the best batting team of the tournament; they were arguably the best batting outfit in all seven seasons of the IPL; they were probably the most entertaining side too. Kings XI had some starting trouble, as some of their Indian batsmen struggled for form and they tinkered with their batting order, but Glenn Maxwell and David Miller carried them through this phase with explosive performances. Then the pieces fell into place - Wriddhiman Saha, Virender Sehwag and Manan Vohra found form - and by the end of the season Kings XI could rely on any of their top six to score. They were so prolific as a unit that Shaun Marsh, a certainty to play for most other franchises, got only two games. Thisara Perera, Sri Lanka's power-hitting allrounder who was an integral part of the Sunrisers XI in 2013, did not get even one. Kings XI made the four highest totals in 2014, and scored more than 190 in eight innings.
Kings XI also made a rare combination work - a foreign captain and an Indian head coach. George Bailey began the season with questions over whether he would find a place among the four first-choice overseas players had he not been captain. And though Bailey's form with the bat was average, he led adroitly, kept his team in line, and played with grace in victory and defeat. Bailey had high praise for Bangar, Kings XI's new coach and perhaps the most low profile in the tournament. Bangar was credited with bringing the best out of Kings XI's less-known Indian talent, and he might have opened the door to the IPL for more Indian coaches.
What went wrong
The most difficult problem Bailey had was in managing his bowlers. After the auction, the Kings XI squad looked light on spinners - Murali Kartik was the only well-known name - but through the season they were consistently let down by their seam attack. Rishi Dhawan had the best numbers (13 wickets and an economy of 7.71) while the rest of the pace attack - Mitchell Johnson, Parvinder Awana, L Balaji and Sandeep Sharma - went for more than eight runs an over. The South African quick Beuran Hendricks played only three games and had an economy of 10.50. So while the Kings XI batsmen plundered, their bowlers were often plundered too.
Johnson was a disappointment, despite claiming 17 wickets. He never took more than two in an innings, his economy was 8.29, and he rarely operated with control. Johnson often bowled at least two overs during the first six, a period during which Kings XI conceded 8.77 per over, the second worst Powerplay economy for a team in all seven seasons. Johnson took only six wickets at an average of 40.66 in 29 overs during this period.
Sandeep was their top wicket-taker but while he was awesome in the UAE - seven wickets at an average of 8.85 and economy of 5.63 - he was expensive in India, where he went for 10.01 per over and took only 11 wickets in eight innings. Balaji and Awana were poor, lacking in pace and shoddy with lengths - and never more so than in the final.
9.09 - The rate at which Kings XI scored their runs this year, the fastest for a team in any IPL season. They beat their own record from 2008, when their run rate was 8.81.
Glenn Maxwell began the tournament with 95, 89 and 95 and those three innings - boasting a combined strike rate of more than 200 - were replete with reverse sweeps, switch-hits, reverse pulls, and textbook shots too. They made Maxwell the IPL's newest sensation. He was the only batsman who could spectacularly destroy R Ashwin's Twenty20 tactic of pitching wide outside the right-hander's leg stump from round the wicket. Using an array of reverse hits, Maxwell pillaged 71 runs off the 27 balls Ashwin bowled at him this season. Maxwell's form tapered off in the second half of the season - only one score of more than 30 in his last nine innings - but he still finished as the tournament's third-highest runscorer. Maxwell joined Chris Gayle as the only batsmen to score more than 500 runs at a strike rate of more than 180 in an IPL season.
Cheteshwar Pujara was Kings XI's first choice as Virender Sehwag's opening partner. They gave him a run of six matches but Pujara was out of his depth and struggled to match less-talented batsmen for aggression. He made only 125 runs in six innings and his strike-rate of 100 often caused Kings XI to stagnate in the opening overs, leaving them dependent on Maxwell and David Miller for a pyrotechnic rescue. He was eventually replaced by Mandeep Singh, who in turn made way for Manan Vohra. Kings XI need Pujara to be able to bat at a faster clip in future seasons, because Sehwag might not be as effective in IPL 2015 and 2016.
Akshar Patel was actually Kings XI's player of the season, but because hardly anyone knew of him before this tournament, he was also an extremely surprising package. Patel was part of the Mumbai Indians squad in 2013 but did not get a game; he played all of Kings XI's 17 matches in 2014. At first glance, there isn't anything menacing about Patel's left-arm orthodox offerings. He doesn't spin it much and goes about his business in an understated way. However, besides his accurate line and length and variations of pace, Patel was unflappable in the tensest of situations, making him Bailey's go-to bowler. He took 17 wickets and his economy of 6.13 was the best among bowlers who had bowled more than eight overs this season. In the final, as all of his team-mates were going at more than 10 an over, Patel conceded only 21 off 24 balls.
Kings XI had amassed 226 in the second qualifier against Chennai Super Kings, but Suresh Raina was attacking them like Asterix would punch through a testudo of Romans, having downed a flagon of magic potion. He had scored 87 off 25 balls, and Super Kings were 100 for 2 after six overs, when Brendon McCullum pushed the ball towards point. There was hesitation from both batsmen in going for the single but they decided to run it. George Bailey swooped on the ball, running to his left from cover. He picked up with his left hand, but had to swirl around because his momentum was taking him away from the stumps, and he would have been off balance had he tried to throw without turning. Bailey transferred the ball to his right hand as he did so and took aim at the striker's end. Nothing less than a direct hit would do. Raina was sprinting; he was diving; he was too late. In one fluid motion, Bailey had removed the obstacle between Kings XI and their maiden IPL final.
George Binoy is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo