In their first IPL final, Sunrisers Hyderabad showed their intent early by opting to bat against Royal Challengers Bangalore at a venue where tall scores have been chased down nonchalantly. David Warner, their talismanic leader, walked the talk and top-scored with a 38-ball 69, before Ben Cutting lent the finishing touches with an unbeaten 15-ball 39 to help them post 208 for 7. Eventually, however, it was their bowling line-up, the best in the tournament, that delivered the maiden IPL title with an eight-run win over the hosts at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium.
Royal Challengers had breached the 200-mark thrice previously at home this season and there was no reason why they could not do so again on Sunday, except the pressure of chasing in a final. Not for Chris Gayle and Virat Kohli, though, as the opening pair wiped 114 in 10.3 overs. Gayle alone contributed 76, with four fours and eight sixes. Sunrisers’ attack was under pressure early on, but they clinically applied the brakes after Gayle’s wicket.
Even without Royal Challengers’ famous top three, 47 off 24 balls was still within the realms of possibility. Shane Watson, Stuart Binny and Sachin Baby are capable of striking big, but they had to contend with two threats. Mustafizur Rahman’s off-cutters, delivered with unfailing accuracy after a rough second over in which he was taken apart by Kohli, marked his significance in a team that has empowered its bowlers. The reward for his persistence was the wicket of Watson, who miscued a slog to cover. Bhuvneshwar Kumar, the captain’s go-to bowler, then delivered four successive yorkers in the 18th over to snuff out the game, leaving the hosts a target of 30 off the last two overs. Then, with 18 to defend off the final over, he once again held his composure to deliver the knockout blow.
Shane Watson’s rare off day with the ball was costly for Royal Challengers. He fed the batsmen an assortment of hittable deliveries – short, wide and full – to concede 61 off four wicketless overs, conceding 24 in his last over, also the final one of the innings.
Royal Challengers, however, had their batting guns. Gayle announced proudly that he was capable of taking the match away single-handedly, even before Kohli and AB de Villiers could take off. With only one fifty in nine innings prior to the final, there were question marks over his efficiency in the shortest format. Seemingly unperturbed by all the talk, he launched a savage attack.
Gayle’s gung-ho approach allowed Kohli to overcome a patchy start where he showed signs of desperation. After facing 18 balls for one four, which came off a thick outside edge, he launched himself with an inside-out hit over the infield that nearly carried to a diving Warner at long-off. Gayle finished that over, bowled by
Moises Henriques, with two sixes and a four raised Royal Challengers’ 100 in nine overs.
In a bid to stop the run flow, Warner brought back Mustafizur for his second over. But the cutters that had yielded considerable success were first squeezed past cover for four and then lofted over long-off for six. Well ahead of the asking rate, Gayle tactfully rotated the strike and the hosts seemed to be cruising, until there was turbulence.
Gayle, Kohli and de Villiers fell in the space of 20 deliveries as Royal Challengers slipped to 148 for 3. They needed 61 off 37 and they needed Watson to make up for his lapses with the ball. There were promising signs when he swatted Henriques for six over long-on, but his dismissal in the 17th over, immediately after KL Rahul’s wicket, left the hosts in a position they could not recover from.
The platform for Sunrisers’ win was set by Warner, who has delivered unfailingly in the tournament. With Kohli employing a deep point to block the cuts, the Sunrisers captain brought out the straight lofted hits. When the ball was not in his half, he was happy to back away to open up the off side or carve the ball behind square. The result was eight fours and three sixes for his ninth fifty of the tournament, and he ended as the second-highest run-scorer.
The impact of Warner’s strokeplay meant Yuzvendra Chahal tried to bowl more floaters than legspinners, which skidded to give the batsmen enough hitting room. Warner then brought out the cut shots, raising his fifty off only 24 balls to equal the record for the fastest half-century in an IPL final. As his innings progressed, he was not afraid to walk across the stumps; the manner in which he used the depth of the crease to get underneath the full deliveries was a mark of how he calculated his sustained attack.
Warner benefited from Yuvraj Singh’s enterprise at the other end. After starting off with a punchy off drive, Yuvraj quickly brought out the disdainful flick for six behind square. The swagger, the free flow and the bat swing were back. With four fours and two sixes, he raced to 38 and looked set to cover up for Warner’s dismissal until he was out to Chris Jordan. His wicket brought a brief lull in the innings, before Cutting teed off. As bowler after bowler missed his mark, Cutting stayed deep in the crease to clobber the low full-tosses and half-volleys alike. The final over, which cost 24, proved to be a match-turning one in hindsight for Royal Challengers, who suffered their third loss in the final. (Cricinfo)