MS Dhoni has added another feather to his captaincy hat. It was he who started the turnaround against a formidable Mumbai Indians attack, his deputy Suresh Raina capitalised on two dropped catches to score a crucial fifty, and Chennai Super Kings defended with aggression, smartness and flair to win the third IPL. Chennai were struggling at 68 for 3 after 12 overs when Dhoni got into the act: 100 runs were added in the last eight, and Raina scored 44 at a strike-rate of 200 after the first drop. The win concluded a fourth consecutive one-sided knockout in the tournament.
Ever since R Ashwin started the defence with a maiden over, Mumbai never really threatened Chennai. Sachin Tendulkar, playing with a split webbing, played his least fluent innings of the tournament, scoring a laboured 48 off 45. Mumbai tried some strange moves: promotions for Abhishek Nayar and Harbhajan Singh bombed, and even at the fall of the fifth wicket, with 69 required off 31, Kieron Pollard was not the man making his way out of the dugout.
There were no problems with tactics for Chennai: they went with the old-fashioned approach of keeping wickets in hand, never mind the slow start, and with M Vijay breaking free, had reached a perfectly acceptable 40 for no loss at the end of Powerplay. Dilhara Fernando brought Mumbai back, removing Vijay with his split-finger slower ball in the eighth over. Pollard ended Matthew Hayden's 31-ball 17-run misery, and S Badrinath holed out in the 12th over.
Dhoni left alone the first ball he faced, was beaten by a legcutter after that, was almost bowled the next ball, and worked a single to end that testing Fernando over. Mumbai can file for lack of sufficient warning for what was to come next. The first ball Dhoni faced from Pollard he charged down and hit him into the second tier - with one hand. The next ball Pollard ran in and didn't let go, stares were exchanged, and Tendulkar rushed in to apologise to the batsman: it was the second time Pollard had done this in his 2.1 overs. Dhoni's bat spoke emphatically, though, with a punch for four to end the over.
Tendulkar was warned sufficiently by now: he had to bring Lasith Malinga, whose yorkers have been near perfect, back before he would have ideally liked to. Dhoni charged at him, converted one into a low full toss, and hit a boundary to extra cover.
Zaheer Khan was brought back in the next over. He produced a top edge that neither Fernando (running in from third man) nor Abhishek Nayar (running back from point) claimed. Salt was in ready supply for Zaheer's wound: out of nowhere Raina produced timing and a four and a six to take Chennai to 108 after 15 overs. In the over that followed, Pollard eked out a skier from Raina, which Zaheer dropped. The next ball Raina made room and lofted over extra cover for six. The ball after was hit to Tendulkar, and cannily they exposed his injured hand by stealing a second. And the next was slogged over midwicket for six. Mumbai needed a time-out to figure out what had hit them.
Fernando, three overs for 12 until then, bowled a poor last over to nearly double the tally. Malinga started the last over superbly: bat couldn't meet ball for the first four deliveries, and Albie Morkel was run out in panic. Then it came apart: five wides, followed by a length ball driven over extra cover, and some manic running, and they were chasing the biggest total in an IPL final.
A maiden over was not the best way to start for Mumbai, but losing Shikhar Dhawan in the second was even worse. The next 10 overs featured smart spin bowling, hustling fielders, run-out opportunities created, signs of desperation of Tendulkar, and eventually the wickets of Nayar and Harbhajan in the 12th over. With the required rate going past 12 an over, Tendulkar holed out to long-off, and Raina pulled off a blinder, running in from deep midwicket, to send back Saurabh Tiwary. To everybody's surprise, JP Duminy walked out, and by the time he walked back, he had left Mumbai 55 to get in three overs.
Pollard made a match out of this too: taking 22 runs off Bollinger's 18th over. Morkel bowled a tight 19th over, with a long-off, and a mid-off up in the circle and so straight it was almost behind him. Pollard hit a catch to him: it just highlighted which captain had got it right on the night.
Sidharth Monga is a staff writer at Cricinfo