MS Dhoni’s face hardly betrays emotion. Else, it would have had the mea culpa of a dropped catch writ large on it. Dropping Venkatesh Iyer, the man behind Kolkata Knight Riders’ upsurge in UAE, on nought threatened to be a very costly mistake, irrespective of a victory target of 193.
And when Shubman Gill got a Spidercam-wire reprieve, with CSK desperately searching for a breakthrough, it felt like lady luck was with KKR in the IPL final.
But CSK had scoreboard pressure to fall back on. Once Iyer got out after scoring a blazing 50 off 32 balls, wickets rained. The 27-run victory to claim the IPL title for the fourth time was pretty comfortable in the end. This has been a story of a stirring comeback by the so-called ‘Dad’s Army’ that were written off after last season.
Jadeja and Shardul
Against a massive total, the KKR openers, Iyer and Gill, were undaunted. Fifty came in the sixth over and KKR had raced to 88 for no loss after 10.
Then, Iyer tried to send a Shardul delivery into orbit but mistimed it.
All eyes were fixed on Jadeja, who couldn’t afford to drop the skier. Under such pressure, overcoming a great degree of difficulty, the allrounder took one of the finest catches of the tournament.
Rahul Tripathi’s hamstring injury forced KKR to alter their batting order. They were always up against a 10-plus asking rate and with their captain Eoin Morgan woefully out of form, promoting Sunil Narine was their only option.
Narine gave a mighty thud to a short one from Josh Hazlewood and it looked to have enough meat to go over the boundary. But Jadeja, who else, ran back, kept his eyes on the ball and timed his jump to perfection to pluck it out of thin air.
Impact-fielding done, Jadeja provided his spin-punch. Dinesh Karthik was removed with a skiddy delivery followed by Shakib Al Hasan’s scalp a wide ball later with sharp-spin.
After Iyer’s scalp, Shardul dismissed Nitish Rana with a cross-seamer in the same over, a delivery that stopped a bit on the batsman. The key to chase down an imposing total is to take the game deep with enough wickets in hand. Once KKR started to lose wickets in a heap – eight wickets fell between 11 and 17 overs for 34 runs, Morgan’s team was out of the game.
Shardul finished with 3/38 to take his tournament tally to 21 wickets.
Until this game, during the second phase of the tournament, three KKR spinners, Varun Chakravarthy, Narine and Shakib, had been going at an economy-rate of less than seven runs per over. In the title showdown, both Varun and Shakib were taken to the cleaners, and Narine’s 2/26 was the only saving grace. Out of their Sharjah comfort zone, KKR bowlers searched for the right length, going all over the place in the process. Lockie Ferguson, 0/56, was the biggest struggler.
But this doesn’t take the credit away from CSK batting. A missed stumping on two notwithstanding, du Plessis’ 86 oozed class. Ruturaj Gaikwad, playing the role of an enforcer today, finished the tournament with 635 runs to claim the Orange Cap. Robin Uthappa and Moeen Ali made a mockery of KKR’s famed middle-overs choke.
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