After a washed out day and a long delay, CSK won a thriller at the final ball against Gujarat Titans to spark celebrations in the early hours of Monday.
Manjrekar: Dhoni had her eyes closed for the final ball
Sanjay Manjrekar and Tom Moody have no doubts about Dhoni’s stature as IPL’s greatest captain
Chennai Super Kings 171 for 5 of 15 overs (Conway 47, Dube 32*, Mohit 3-36) beaten Gujarat Titans 214 for 4 (Sudharsan 96, Saha 54) by five wickets on DLS method
At 1:35 a.m. on the third day of a T20 match, Chennai Super Kings became the new IPL champions, winning their fifth title to tie the Mumbai Indians.
Ravindra Jadeja pierced the silence built up by tens of thousands when he hit the final two balls of an incredible, chaotic, unbelievable boundary chase. A straight ahead. The other behind.
An equation of 171 over 15 overs reduces 14 to one. Mohit Sharma made it even harder – 11 from 3. CSK hadn’t hit a limit in 13 balls. They had, however, lost two wickets. One of them was MS Dhoni, for a duck.
It looked like his last act on a cricket pitch. He will soon be 42 years old. He said preparing for the IPL at his age was taking a “heavy toll”. When he entered, Ahmedabad broke the sound barrier. When he left, the crowd was helpless.
But minutes later they watched, after battling in the rain, braving arduous journeys to and from the floor, as their hero stepped onto the podium and claimed his fifth IPL trophy. In a rare display of emotion, once the winning points were reached, Dhoni jumped into Jadeja’s arms. That’s what it meant to him.
None of this would have been possible without the impact of Ambati Rayudu. He tweeted that this would be his last IPL match. When it came out, ESPN forecaster cricinfo suggested CSK only had a 35% chance of winning. He whipped Mohit for 6, 4 and 6 and with those three hits, his team became the overwhelming favorite – 93%.
The strong points
The IPL Finals started on May 28. Not a ball was played because of the rain. Then it moved to May 29. Two hundred and ten balls took six hours to be played due to another weather intervention.
B Sai Sudharsan made the finale the show it was. The 21-year-old boy from Chennai took it to his local franchise, scoring 96 runs on 47 balls. Mohit made the distance last. He came back from the Rayudu assault to pick up two wickets in two runs.
Later, in the face of the greatest pressure a player could be under – winning the last one with an IPL final on his shoulders – he nailed three perfect off-stump yorkers who were simply unbeatable.
Super Kings had been buoyed by another solid opening partnership from Ruturaj Gaikwad and Devon Conway. But once the field expanded – after four overs – they found the situation more difficult. Especially against Noor Ahmad. The 18-year-old left arm brawler didn’t concede a single limit in a 3-0-17-2 spell. His Afghan teammate, however, was roughed up.
Rashid Khan was about to end his spell well. The first four balls of his last over only lasted three points. The rest went for 12. Shivam Dube got the pitched balls he wanted and he smashed them both for six.
CSK needed to go 6, 6, 6, 4, 6 between the 12th and 13th overs just to get ahead in this game. They were dragging up that five-ball streak. Imagine being the Titans right now. These five balls – then the last two – ended up deciding their fate.
They finally roar for Jadeja
At the end of the championship phase, Jadeja had a strike rate of 149.47 between overs 15 and 20. This is the lowest of 14 finishers who faced at least 75 balls in this phase. His nearest challenger for a place in India’s T20 cricket team – Axar Patel – was up at 175.55.
To make matters worse, every time he went down he was greeted to the sound of the crowd roaring like one for the incoming batter. Dhoni. It got to the point where he turned the fans on, joking of course, and, in response, the next time he came out in the middle, DJ Chepauk played a song called Mannipayawhich translates in Tamil as will you forgive me?
Jadeja only faced six balls in the final. He’s only been in the crease for 13. No limits were hit the entire time he was there…until the penultimate ball. A yorker that fell just inches from Mohit was thrown to the ground and then the final ball, another yorker attempt that became a low, full throw, was passed past the left of the short fine.
Chennai would have roared like one. This time for Jadeja.
CSK needed 73 from 36. Eleven balls, two fours and a wicket later, they needed 55 from 25 and that’s what Rayudu got into. He played 204 matches during his IPL career, which started in 2010. This season he had to play a reduced role. He was CSK’s Impact Sub at the start. None of his innings lasted more than 17 balls. Yet he kept telling his teammates in the locker room that he would win the final for them. Deepak Chahar made a point of saying it by cutting Rayudu himself when he was doing an interview with the host broadcaster.
The second six he hit was particularly breathtaking. On a slower ball into the wicket that was designed to rob the batter of his balance, but Rayudu kept his and crushed it over extra coverage. As far as cameos go, this 19 out of 8 will be long remembered.
The forgotten hero
Sudharsan came on the back of a stump Dhoni completed in 0.1 seconds to get rid of Shubman Gill. He was 10 of 12 no limits after 11 overs. He was the man who had to retire in Qualifier 2 so the Titans could get a better ball hitter. But even that night they let Sudharsan batter until the start of the 20th and only then did he pull him out. They trust this guy. They trust all their guys. It’s all their thing.
Sudharsan seems to understand his limitations. And that gives him his power. He can’t hit six like Tim David or Suryakumar Yadav. Even those he manages to hit seem to get a lot out of him. This bat goes as high as it can go in the back-lift and drops thunderously. He’s not holding anything back because he knows he can’t afford it.
Defensive bowling all protect one side of the court. Usually the leg side. That’s why most teams put more men in deep there. It’s instinctive to hit the ball in the T20s.
But Sudharsan is different. He is a very good offside player. On Monday, he found six of his eight four legs there. Two of them were slaps in the face of CSK’s plans. In the 17th, with a mid and cover and Tushar Deshpande trying to tuck him into the mid and leg, Sudharsan made room and flat hit two nice boundaries where he knew he didn’t need power . Fair placement.
It was part of a three in which he scored every Titans boundary – three sixes and five fours. When a batter raids both sides of the wicket, the opposition comes apart.
No CSK bowler was spared. Not even Matheesha Pathirana. He had played entire matches – 9 out of 14 – without giving as many points as tonight to a single player. Sudharsan hit the Sri Lankan sensation for 34 balls on 14 balls.
Alagappan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo