David Warner: Sunrisers' Batman and Robin
Virat Kohli might have earned a considerable amount of applause for his mesmeric batting in this IPL. But in the biggest match of the season, the one man who had been challenging Kohli's claim for the tournament's MVP crossed the finish line ahead of the Royal Challengers Bangalore captain. David Warner was that man.
He had dared Kohli by electing to bat first, telling Royal Challengers that he possessed a formidable bowling attack. But first, Sunrisers had to put a challenging total on the board.
Unlike Chris Gayle, later in the evening, Warner was not destructive. As he has been throughout the tournament, he was attentive to the possibilities, his placement inch-perfect.
Take this instance: Sachin Baby stood at short third man, Gayle at backward point. Barely 10 yards separated the two. Shane Watson erred for the third time in his first over, bowling full and wide outside off stump. Warner stretched to chop the ball neatly into the narrow divide. The fielders held their heads. Warner did not even look up. He knew what he was doing.
Gayle then came on to bowl. He was firing his offbreaks into the batsman's legs. But the first time he opted to flight the ball, the last ball of his third over, Warner swept him powerfully over mid-on for his second six.
In no time - 24 balls - Warner raised his bat to mark his ninth fifty of the season, the most by any batsman. Kohli might have won the Orange Cap with four centuries, but Warner was not far behind - he finished with 848 runs to Kohli's 973, his strike rate, 151.42, nearly identical to Kohli's 152.03.
Yuzvendra Chahal, the best spinner in this IPL, became a little predictable, bowling too many googlies at the left-handed Warner. Offered width, Warner cut Chahal for two fours in the ninth over.
S Aravind finally forced Warner to edge one in the 14th. Did Aravind take the wicket or did Warner throw it away? Probably it was the latter. Offered a low full toss on off stump, Warner had punched Aravind for a straight boundary as soon as Kohli had brought the left-arm seamer back. Aravind's next ball was a fraction wider, on the fourth stump. Warner went for an expansive drive, attempting to hit over cover, and ended up slicing into the hands of Iqbal Abdulla at short third man.
Warner has not had the kind of support Kohli enjoys in Royal Challengers' batting line-up. He has had to be both Batman and Robin for Sunrisers. For half the tournament he did not have the services of Yuvraj Singh, who proved a catalyst as soon as he returned from injury. Barring Warner, Shikhar Dhawan and Yuvraj, none of the Sunrisers batsmen - overseas or Indian - crossed the 200-run mark. At times Warner lost his cool and made his anger public: when the batsmen at the other end were throwing their wickets away in a tight chase in the second Qualifier against Gujarat Lions, he bared his emotions in the face of head coach Tom Moody, who remained speechless.
Warner eventually took Sunrisers home with some late help from Bipul Sharma. He finished short of a century by seven runs, but he had won Sunrisers their first IPL final ticket, in their fourth season.
On Sunday, late into the match, when Sunrisers had all but sealed the win, Warner was still fully switched on. In the penultimate over of the match, Sachin Baby hit a straight drive off Mustafizur Rahman. Warner was at wide long-on. He set off swiftly to his right, threw himself into a sprawling dive and interrupted the progress of the ball, relaying it two-handed to the fielder coming the opposite way from long-off.
Moody said Warner had set high standards for himself, and inspired his team-mates to do the same.
"The most important thing that I draw from him is he has a relentless passion to win," Moody said. "He is a born winner and that rubs off on others. He has got incredible work ethic, incredible discipline and all those things are so important from a leadership point of view and that has rubbed off on the group."
David Warner thumped his chest. David Warner shrieked. David Warner was a proud winner.
Nagraj Gollapudi is a senior assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo