Tue, 21 May 2019

Mumbai Indians 149 for 8 (Pollard 41*, Chahar 3-26) beat Chennai Super Kings 148 for 7 (Watson 80, Bumrah 2-14) by one run

In a deeply tactical and wildly chaotic final, Lasith Malinga turned around a horror night in an exceptional final over to hand Mumbai Indians their fourth IPL title.

The match went this way and that - both batting sides arguably underperformed, technology gave the third umpire a nightmare, catches went down and run-outs were missed - before it came down to Chennai Super Kings needing nine to win off the final over. Malinga - three overs for 42 until then, a dropped catch, ordinary fielding and a missed run-out to his name - turned up one final time with creaky joints to concede just seven. With two required off the last ball, he bowled the most magical slower-ball to win it for Mumbai when most bowlers would have been happy to bowl a slower wide ball to try to ensure the tie first.

On a night when experience came to the fore, Shane Watson nearly enjoyed a similar fairy-tale. Trusted through what can conventionally be seen as a horror run, Watson carried Super Kings in the final with 80 off 59, twice undoing Mumbai's good work with his targeted assault of Mumbai bowlers, but his physical struggles got the better of him in the last over. With five required off three balls and with Malinga nailing his yorkers, Watson set off for a suicidal second, not only running himself out but also leaving Ravindra Jadeja stranded at the non-striker's end. It was perhaps time for Jadeja to say no to that second.

If Chahar doesn't get you, Thakur will

Winning the toss and deciding to bat because of the pressure of the final, Mumbai came out full of intent to not let Super Kings bowl Deepak Chahar for three straight overs in the Powerplay. Quinton de Kock went after Deepak in the third over, hitting him for three sixes, and MS Dhoni was forced to go to Shardul Thakur in the fifth over. De Kock hit him for a six fourth ball of the over. Now Mumbai were close to pushing Deepak and Super Kings out of their comfort zone; all they needed was to not lose a wicket in the next two balls.

De Kock didn't pay much mind to this by-play, and went for another six, gloving the ball to Dhoni. This allowed Deepak to come back in the sixth over, and he responded beautifully with a knuckle ball that got the wicket of Rohit Sharma for 15. What's more, he made that sixth over - usually the most difficult in the Powerplay - a maiden. From 45 for 0 in 4.4, Mumbai went to 45 for 2 at the end of the Powerplay.

Dhoni teams up with data

Well he might not have, but he did exactly what a data analyst might have asked him to do. He usually reserves Dwayne Bravo for the death, and bowls Harbhajan Singh and Imran Tahir through the middle. In this game, Bravo's match-up against Hardik Pandya and Kieron Pollard was not suitable for Super Kings so Dhoni bowled two of his overs by the 10th over. You could excuse de Kock for not being aware of the by-play, but Suryakumar Yadav and Ishan Kishan were clearly guilty of letting Super Kings play the game they wanted to. They just played out three overs without much intent, dawdling to 58 for 2 in nine overs on a pitch that could not be termed slow.

Cat and mouse continues

The tactical contest continued with Tahir getting Suryakumar in his first over - the 12th - and Mumbai delaying the introduction of Hardik and Pollard. Out came Krunal Pandya, and Thakur came back to get him. Soon Tahir had Kishan for the fifth time in five innings they have come up against each other. It was now down to Pollard and Hardik against Super Kings' death bowlers.

Pollard overcomes

Dhoni's tactics continued to test Mumbai. He had picked six bowlers just for this reason: he wanted options if it got chaotic. Now he refused to give Bravo to Pollard and Hardik. Instead, Deepak and Thakur bowled. Even though Thakur went for 16 in the 18th over, Deepak pulled things back with a four-run 19th over that also got him two wickets. Despite a 20-run over, he ended with 26 runs in his four overs. Hardik out of the way, Dhoni finally went to Bravo, who managed to get under Pollard's skin thanks to pin-point field sets and a couple of lenient calls on the wide. Pollard, though, managed to get better of the frustration by hitting the last two balls for fours.

Watson, du Plessis put Mumbai under pressure

Mumbai, too, had bowling options at their disposal, but they were put under pressure. Faf du Plessis went after Krunal, whose match-up against Watson was favourable for Mumbai. Watson in response took apart Malinga. Krunal, though, got du Plessis stumped with a wide delivery. However, at 53 for 1 at the end of the Powerplay, Super Kings were favourites.

Raina gets stuck

Suresh Raina, Super Kings' second-biggest draw over the years, then got stuck against the bowling of Mitchell McClenaghan, Jasprit Bumrah and Rahul Chahar. He seemed helpless against the short ball bowled to a specific plan. He survived what everybody thought was a straightforward catch to the wicketkeeper, only for technology to disagree, but by the time he fell lbw to Rahul, Super Kings had let Mumbai claw their way back in.

Rohit immediately went to Bumrah, asking for a wicket, which was delivered. Dhoni seemed set to set this up for a late finish, but he was run out in a freakish manner, trying to take an overthrow and found short by the slightest of margins. Third umpire Nigel Llong could have made either call and it would have found critics and supporters; he chose the red button. Super Kings now needed 68 off 44.

Watson against Mumbai

With Bravo struggling against the bounce on the pitch, it was all down to Watson. At the start of the 16th over, Rohit had two overs each from Bumrah and Malinga. It looked like a straightforward call to bowl them from 16 through to 19, but something about Malinga had been off all night. It showed in the 16th over as Watson hit him for three straight fours to bring it down to 42 off four overs. Bumrah was there to pull it back with a sensational 17th that went for just four.

Malinga was struggling physically. He had to be given a break. It was between the Pandya brothers now. Rohit went for the spinner presumably because he had great numbers against Watson. However, these match-ups become null and void once the batsman is set. Watson showed that majestically by hitting three consecutive sixes. Bumrah again dragged Mumbai back, and despite a misfield to give them four byes off the last ball of the 19th over, Bumrah had kept them alive.

Had to be Malinga

There was no way anybody other than Malinga was going to bowl this last over. His experience had to be relied upon. First ball: yorker nailed from round the wicket to Watson. Now eight off five. Second ball, low full toss, should have been run out, concedes a single. Now seven off four. Third ball: another yorker from round the wicket, this time hit wide of long-on for an easy two. Now five off three. Fourth ball: wide yorker, Watson takes the risk and de Kock makes up with a smart collection and flick back onto the stumps. Now four off two.

To the new batsman, Malinga continues with the round-the-wicket angle, but Thakur gets enough bat on the low full toss to get two. With two required off the last ball, long chats follow. De Kock removes one glove. Seemingly many plans are formed and discarded. Finally we have a field that seems set for a slower ball outside off, but Malinga delivers with the beguiling dipping slower ball that traps Thakur right in front. Pollard carried him on his shoulders. The baddest daddy in town had beaten Dad's Army.

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