Synopsis: The new prince of Kolkata flusters CSK, who pay for a wrong decision and bowling profligacy. A curious batting approach makes things easier for MI.
The new prince of Kolkata
Faf du Plessis’s backhand flick was Rhodesesque. Parthiv Patel drove an Ashish Nehra delivery to mid-on and went for a sharp single. Du Plessis was a little too quick. The Mumbai Indians opener was short of his ground by about a couple of yards. Sitting in the Mumbai dug-out, Rhodes, too, must have applauded.
Chennai Super Kings had a good beginning after Mahendra Singh Dhoni won the toss and strangely decided to field. Kolkata Knight Riders were not playing, so the curators replaced the customary Eden Gardens turner with a featherbed. It was a beauty. But Dhoni decided to put the opposition in.
Rohit Sharma’s arrival exposed his error. The Mumbai captain took two balls to get his eye in before he launched into Mohit Sharma. A six over third man, followed by a four to the same area and a slap to the cover fence, and Mumbai were up and running. Within six balls Rohit had wrested the initiative.
Yellow was the colour of Eden Gardens terraces interspersed with a few dots of blue. But after Rohit hit Nehra for back-to-back boundaries, the fans started to sing his name. Very early into the game, it looked like it was the continuation of his November epic (264 in a one-dayer against Sri Lanka). It was sublime batting.
Over to Lendl Simmons now. He greeted Ravichandran Ashwin with a sweep to the fine-leg fence. It was not the type of surface where spinners enjoyed bowling with the new ball. Ashwin looked a little shaky. He overstepped and presented Simmons with a free-hit. The ball sailed into the stands over the straight boundary. Simmons was even more severe on Ravindra Jadeja, who replaced Ashwin at the Club House end. Fourteen runs off his first over and Mumbai were 61/1 after six; their best power-play score in this IPL.
Compared to his captain’s silken grace, the West Indian Simmons was agricultural. But he was connecting the ball well and Rohit didn’t mind giving him more of the strike. When opportunities arrived, the Indian showed his class. A six off Ashwin over mid-wicket was magnificent. Rohit appeared to be beaten by the flight as he danced down the pitch.
But the way he made room to swing his arms was simply terrific.
Simmons got to his half-century — sixth of the season — with a couple off Mohit. Rohit followed suit — another half-century at Eden Gardens for the ‘new prince of Kolkata’. Mumbai were motoring along and Dhoni looked flustered. He assembled his troops for a mini-conference.
Under siege, Dwayne Bravo seemed to be the only option left for the Chennai captain. And as usual, the Trinidadian delivered, accounting for Rohit with a slower delivery. The latter mistimed it to Jadeja at long-on. A 119-run second wicket partnership was broken.
Dwayne Smith removed Simmons in the first ball of the new over – a lovely yorker at the base of the off stump and the batter paid for overconfidence. Chennai had a glimmer of hope. But they once again let it slip, putting on an exhibition of long-hops, full-tosses, and length balls. Their fielding was below average.
Kieron Pollard and Ambati Rayudu grabbed the opportunity to take the game away from their rivals. After a relatively cautious beginning, Pollard tore into Nehra with three sixes and a four in his final over. The 36-year-old left-arm quick was Man of the Match in Qualifier 2. Here, he gave away only 18 runs in his first three overs but returned with 0/41 after four.
Rayudu finished on 36 not out off 24 balls. Pollard made 36 from 18. Together, they added 71 runs in 6.4 overs to take the score to 202.
Curious batting approach
If the decision to field first was strange, Chennai’s batting approach was curious. Against an asking-rate of over 10 runs per over, they strolled to 31/1 after first six. They lost the match in power-plays.
Smith tried to up the ante when Harbhajan Singh was introduced into the attack. A reverse lap was an attacking statement, but the experienced off-spinner came back well and deceived him with a top-spinner. The West Indian scored a half-century but his team had already been fighting a losing battle.
Harbhajan then dismissed Suresh Raina with a quicker one that spun and eluded the batter. Patel made a smart stumping.
Mitchell McClenaghan accounted for Bravo and Lasith Malinga, after being hit for a massive six by Dhoni, cleaned him up with a yorker.
Mumbai had both hands on the cup.
In fact, Chennai were all but out of this game at the toss, when Dhoni misread the pitch. And once Mumbai had put on over 200 runs on the board, they threw in the towel. They had stuttered to the final. On the night, they were no match for a team that played with skill and high tempo. Mumbai’s resilience took them to their second IPL title in three years.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines