What would have been on Chennai Super Kings' wish list before this final? 1) Win toss on a slow pitch. 2) Great start by the openers. 3) Remove Chris Gayle for a duck. PS: While we are it why not knock out AB de Villiers and Virat Kohli cheaply? They got all that. Chennai produced a near-perfect game and mauled Royal Challengers Bangalore to lift their second IPL trophy.
M Vijay has rarely converted his starts this IPL and Michael Hussey hasn't sparkled in the previous few games. So what they do on the day of the big finale? They amass a sizzling 159-run partnership to launch Chennai to a massive total at the Chidambaram Stadium. R Ashwin then derailed the chase by packing off Gayle for a duck in the first over. Game over.
It was the ease with which the runs flowed and the calm manner in which they were accumulated by the Chennai openers that caught the eye. There were several big shots but nearly all of them were in conventional zones. There was just one bad shot in the first 14 overs. Just one. In the 10th over, Vijay had just played a nonchalant flick that sailed just clear of a lunging Luke Pomersbach on the deep-midwicket boundary. He then tried to slog the next ball across the line and edged it to the leg side. The reaction of the players reflected their awareness of the need to keep adrenalin in check: Vijay shadow practiced a straighter arc of the bat and Hussey rushed across to have a long chat.
For the duration of the partnership, which lasted 14.5 overs, they complemented each other with contrasting approaches. Hussey punctuated his bunts, chips and drives with the occasional big hit - the highlight was a monstrous heave off Syed Mohammad that crashed into the roof beyond wide long-on. Vijay went the other way. He punctuated his flamboyant on-the-up hits with quieter punches for singles and twos. They both ran between the wickets hard and fast and the scoring-rate never flagged. Vijay grew increasingly tired but it was Hussey who fell first, swatting a full toss from Mohammad to long-on. By then, they had laid a great platform.
It was Vijay who started the mayhem off the final delivery of the second over with a special shot. It was a short-of-length delivery with little room for maneuvering, or so it seemed, but Vijay wafted it on the up and through the line for a flamboyant six over long-on. Hussey pulled the next delivery, from Zaheer Khan, over the backward square-leg boundary to launch the assault. They repeated that double-dose of sixes again. Hussey swung the final delivery of the fifth over, bowled by Mohammad, over the midwicket boundary and Vijay lifted the next ball, from Chris Gayle, over long-on. Chennai reached 56 for 0 in six overs and kept going from strength to strength.
They started their bowling in the same way. Ashwin just needed three deliveries to remove the chief thorn in their path. The first two turned sharply away from Gayle before the third swerved in from round the stumps and skidded on to collect the edge from an attempted cut. de Villiers reeled off a few big shots but was trapped by Shadab Jakati and Suresh Raina had Kohli lbw to sew up the game for Chennai.
In contrast Bangalore slipped on the little things that matter on this stage. In the Powerplay, there were three instances of fielders succumbing to adrenalin rushes and indulging in needless throws; one, from Saurabh Tiwary, even went to the boundary. Pomersbach could have done a better job in seizing that chance from Vijay in the 10th over, and S Aravind messed up an opportunity to run out Hussey in the 12th over. Vijay, the non-striker, had called Hussey for a risky single and Aravind, the bowler who picked up the ball at short mid-on, flung it wide at the non-striker's end. There was another instance in the 11th over when the bowler, Mohammad, flung himself full stretch to his right but couldn't hang on to a difficult chance offered by Vijay. It was that kind of day. Things just didn't go right for Bangalore and everything went according to script for Chennai.