Bisla's night, Vijay's century
Manvinder Bisla who? The man who won the Indian Premier League 2012 for Kolkata Knight Riders. Little-known Bisla wasn't even supposed to play the final against Chennai Super Kings. However, an injury to L Balaji forced Knight Riders to leave out Brendon McCullum so that they could get another fast bowler, Brett Lee, in. When Super Kings raced to 190 and Gautam Gambhir, Knight Riders' best batsman of the season, departed in the first over, it seemed that the defending champions were on their way to their third successive title.
But Super Kings hadn't accounted for a blinder from Bisla. The wicketkeeper-batsman, opening the innings, cracked 13 boundaries on his way to 89 off 48 deliveries, an assault that was "unexpected", according to Super Kings coach Stephen Fleming. Pace or spin, Bisla kept charging out or making room to loft down the ground for boundaries, dominating a 136-run second-wicket stand with Jacques Kallis, whose contribution to the partnership was 41. There was no hint of desperation in Bisla's hitting and by the time he was dismissed in the 15th over, Knight Riders needed only 52 more runs. Manoj Tiwary hit the winning runs, but the damage had been done by Bisla.
Super Kings may have fallen in the final, but once again, they showed that they are at their best in big games, crushing Mumbai Indians and Delhi Daredevils in the playoffs. Leading the way was MS Dhoni, the Super Kings captain, who converted a decent total into a matchwinning one with a brutal knock against Mumbai Indians in the eliminator. Dhoni's season with the bat till that stage was hardly productive, but he rediscovered his power in a crunch situation, hammering an unbeaten 51 off 20 deliveries. Super Kings had recovered from a disastrous start but had lost three quick wickets to be at 114 for 5 in the 16th over.
Dhoni, coming in at No. 5, flicked his first ball for four. He then hit James Franklin over wide long-on for the biggest six of the season - 112 metres. Dhawal Kulkarni, who had reduced Super Kings to 1 for 2 earlier, was smashed for three consecutive fours. Even Lasith Malinga wasn't spared and Dhoni reserved his trademark helicopter shot for the fast bowler. He went back to a full Malinga delivery and swung it powerfully over deep midwicket with a big followthrough. The last eight overs went for 105 runs, and Mumbai Indians' batting crumbled under the pressure of a tall chase of 188.
After having knocked out Mumbai Indians, Super Kings were faced with another knockout clash two days later, against Daredevils. True to their reputation, they stepped their performance up by another notch. This time, it was M Vijay who rose to the occasion, shutting Daredevils out with a century that featured sustained and clean hitting from the start till he was run out off the last ball of Super Kings' innings. Daredevils had already goofed up by leaving out the tournament's leading wicket-taker Morne Morkel and handing an IPL debut to offspinner Sunny Gupta, who even opened the bowling.
Vijay stepped out coolly and lofted Gupta's first delivery over mid-off for four. He kept lofting, flicking, pulling and driving for boundaries, and Daredevils had no answer. Super Kings' dominance was rubbed in when Vijay went after Virender Sehwag in the 11th over, taking him for two fours and two sixes. Vijay hadn't done much earlier in the season, but when he finished on 113 off 58, he had almost put Super Kings in the final.