Chennai Super Kings won the toss and elected to field. A bit of drama at the toss – reminiscent of the 2011 World Cup final at the same venue? – but all is fine and MS Dhoni has decided to field. Will he end the night the same way he did that 2011 early April night? CSK have dropped the one man who played no role last match – Harbhajan Singh – and have replaced him with a wrist-spinner, Karn Sharma.
SRH have made two changes, one of them forced. Wriddhiman Saha, who regained fitness last match, is out with injury again. Good job India are not playing the Tests in England immediately after the IPL. Shreevats Goswami is back in. And Sandeep Sharma replaces the last match’s punt, Khaleel Ahmed. Carlos Brathwaite stays, and he might once again have to bowl a crucial over at the death. And of he does indeed have to, will it be the 18th, 19th or 20th?
SRH: SP Goswami†, S Dhawan, KS Williamson*, Shakib Al Hasan, YK Pathan, DJ Hooda, CR Brathwaite, Rashid Khan, B Kumar, S Kaul, Sandeep Sharma.
CKS: SR Watson, F du Plessis, SK Raina, AT Rayudu, MS Dhoni*†, DJ Bravo, RA Jadeja, DL Chahar, KV Sharma, SN Thakur, L Ngidi.
Chennai Super Kings 181 for 2 in 18.3 overs (Watson 117*) beat Sunrisers Hyderabad 178 for 6 (Williamson 47) by eight wickets. Finally, the IPL trophy has come back to its spiritual home, Chennai, after six years. The city’s franchise did run into rough waters but it still boasts the best IPL crowds and the most consistent team, which won its third title with a chase that was as much perfection as it was a tribute to their captain MS Dhoni’s philosophies.
Ridiculed as dad’s army for picking players a little long in the tooth, Super Kings won it on a century from a 36-year-old hobbling through between the wickets after having taken 11 balls to get off the mark. The other two significant stats on the night were 17 and 24 runs given by Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Rashid Khan, Sunrisers’ champion bowlers, in their allotment of four overs each. There was one maiden too, but not a single wicket for either of them. Watson ruthlessly targeted the young bowlers from Punjab, Siddarth Kaul and Sandeep Sharma, who went for 95 in their seven overs. It was the fourth time CSK had beaten Sunrisers in four meetings this season, an emphatic record against the team that had finished top of the league stage.
Super Kings began with a beamer followed by a free hit, but they soon pulled things back. This was a stretch of play where both sides were waiting to see who blinks first. After having lost wickets early in the first qualifier against the same opposition, Sunrisers didn’t try anything adventurous against Deepak Chahar and Ngidi, scoring 42 for 1 in the Powerplay.
Having gone at about a run a ball inside the Powerplay, Shikhar Dhawan and Kane Williamson had to become more urgent at some point. Williamson began doing that with Dwayne Bravo, introduced early again because he has not been at his best at the death. For Dhawan the opportunity presented itself when Ravindra Jadeja came on to bowl, turning the ball back into him. As expected he went down for the big slog sweep, but he missed and the ball hit the thigh pad to deviate onto his stumps. Sunrisers 64 for 2 in the ninth.
On the big final day, though, Sunrisers’ middle order kept bringing the runs. Shakib Al Hasan did to Jadeja what Dhawan wanted to do: take four, six and four in his first two overs. Williamson kept tapping Bravo for boundaries. Then again, Dhoni’s golden touch worked. Karn Sharma, IPL champion for the last two years with Sunrisers and Mumbai Indians, brought in just for this match, had Williamson stumped off a wide ball.
But, again, yet another batsman hit the ground running. Yusuf Pathan hit two boundaries in the first seven balls he faced, and the innings was back on track. Deepak Hooda fell cheaply but, at 144 for 5, Sunrisers would have backed themselves for a reprise of the destruction they executed at the end of their innings in the 2016 final.
The carnage began with 16 coming off the 18th over, bowled by Bravo, who signed off with the second-worst economy rate at death this season. The only man worse than him was Thakur, who would bowl the 20th. Ngidi and Thakur, though, bowled two excellent overs with six deliveries not scored off. Only 18 came off those two overs, and Super Kings had the momentum going into the chase.
In the last match between these two sides, Bhuvneshwar tortured Watson before taking him out for a five-ball duck. Yet again, Watson took first strike. This time Bhuvneshwar missed the shoulder of his bat twice by inches in a maiden over. If Watson was under pressure, he didn’t show it. He would play out four more dots before coolly off-driving a four off Sandeep.
The pressure, though, resulted in Faf du Plessis’ wicket. Williamson went against his usual practice of bowling Bhuvneshwar for two overs at the top, one at the death and keeping one for the middle when he needs a wicket. Watson and Suresh Raina showed great awareness of what was happening. If they could play this third over out, they would have to contend with only Rashid in the middle overs. Play out they did, reaching 20 for 1 in five overs.
In the sixth over of the chase, the carnage that sealed the win began. Watson got absolutely stuck into Sandeep and Kaul. Sandeep’s third over went for 15. Kaul made one mistake in his first over, and Watson was all over him. His over went for 16. At 51 for 1 in seven, the asking rate was back under 10.
Williamson would have ideally wanted to bowl Rashid to two right-hand batsmen, Dhoni preferably one of them, given his struggles against this bowler, but Super Kings just didn’t take any risk against him. The next four overs brought: 5, 16, 8, 15. It is easy to tell which of these were bowled by Rashid.
Watson had brought up his fifty by then, but he wasn’t done hurting Sandeep yet. This is a time when Williamson usually goes back to Bhuvneshwar but on this night he couldn’t. Watson launched three sixes and two fours in the 13th over to practically end the chase there. Only about a run a ball was required now, which Watson and Ambati Rayudu managed without a bother.
Shane Watson: “Look, it’s been a special season. To get an opportunity again, for CSK to give me a chance after the previous season with RCB is incredible. Things fell my way nicely at certain times. To come good in such a big game means so much to the franchise. After those first 10 balls [when Watson scored no runs], I was hoping to catch up and at least get to a run a ball and then go from there. It’s good I was able to get a couple of boundaries. Bhuvneshwar Kumar was very skillful with the new ball. We knew if we could get through six overs without much damage, we knew once the ball stopped swinging, it would be easier to get runs later. To have the support from Tommy Simsek (physio), Stephen Fleming and MS Dhoni, especially towards the later stages, has been incredible. They’ve been superb with my recovery. The good thing is I don’t have to play for three-four months now.”
Dwayne Bravo: “It’s been good, a special moment because the team hadn’t played together for two years. For most of the guys, this was the first time with the franchise. Then we had to move from Chennai. Lot of things were going wrong, but we kept focus. There’s nothing better than winning titles. That’s why I’m very happy for the team. We always said experience will get the better of youth. The amount of games all of us have put together are for moments like these. Shane Watson batted on one leg, struggling with a hamstring injury, but his experience got him through. He’s a world-class player and I’m very happy for the entire team.”
Harbhajan Singh: “It’s brilliant to see what Watson brings onto the table, at this ground, no matter how many runs you have, everything is possible. So glad to be part of the winning side, this is my fourth IPL title. Considering Kane Williamson was in good form and they had a lot of middle-order batsmen who are right-handers, MS Dhoni wanted a bowler [Karn Sharma, who played ahead of Harbhajan] who can take the ball away. These days it’s a trend, wristspinners are bowling more and more, fingerspinners aren’t bowling that much. Hopefully that will change next year, well done to Karn Sharma.”
Shardul Thakur: “Last year, I was part of the final but couldn’t win. This year, it’s incredible. I can’t express the feeling in words. I’m on top of the world. The last game was on my mind. I knew I had to bowl well at the death. Today, I was right on top of the ball, executed what I wanted.”
Ambati Rayudu: “I was really fortunate to have such a great season. I worked really hard for it, happy I could score the winning runs. The wicket looked slow, I thought it was damp but it got much better. I was confident we could chase this.”
Ravindra Jadeja: “It’s good to be part of a champion team. We did a good job on and off the field. Win or lose, we played as a team. Very happy that we’re champions after a gap of two years.”
Deepak Chahar: “Enjoyed the role of bowling with the new ball. I was waiting for my chances. Thanks to Mahi bhai, he believed in me. Everyone’s dream is to play in the IPL and then win it. One of my dreams has come true.”
Lungi Ngidi: “It has been amazing. This season has been a rollercoaster of emotions. It’s lovely to have that (pressure) on your shoulders, and take the game one ball at a time.”