Chennai: On a night of mediocre cricket, Mumbai Indians kept their surprise run going to win the biggest prize, in financial terms, in non-international cricket.
James Franklin was the only man to keep his head in a suicidal Mumbai innings, which helped them reach 139, but the Royal Challengers Bangalore once again choked in a big final to lose despite a start of 38 for 0 in four overs.
For the vanquished this was a painful repeat of their IPL final in Johannesburg where they froze while chasing 144. The victors, though, can claim they once again won the big moments: through Franklin's sober innings, through Lasith Malinga's two sixes amid a collapse, and through an extra over given to Malinga that produced a wicket, which started the turnaround.
Be that as it may, for a majority of the match the teams seemed to be in a contest for ordinary cricket. There were three run-outs, there were unsavoury slogs resulting in exposed stumps, the winning side bowled 10 out of a total of 13 wides, and Mumbai Indians' keeper kept letting through byes. If Franklin's smart 41 off 29 suggested he was the only sober man in a Paris Hilton party, the Royal Challengers clearly outdid their opponents for rashness. Yes the pitch was slow and it took turn, but no amount of slowness and turn could justify their bizarre and spectacular collapse, which featured minimal attempts to take singles with the asking-rate around seven an over.
MI didn't even know there was turn in the pitch for them. As Dilshan hit the ground running in the chase, they made a necessary departure from their usual ways of bowling Malinga for only two overs at the top. Dilshan's 27 until then had come off shots either through the line or through the covers, and he would have known how desperately MI would have wanted a wicket off what then seemed like a last roll of the dice. As it turned out, he swung across the line of a full first delivery, losing his off stump.
Kumar Dharmasena then made a potentially match-turning call. He had already got two lbw calls wrong in MI's innings, first reprieving Harbhajan Singh when he was plumb, then ruling him out when he wasn't. But his most consequential mistake was during the chase and again involved Harbhajan, who fired in quick off-breaks in his first over. The last ball of the over, in which he had conceded just a wide, was tossed up, and Chris Gayle got a big stride in. The off-break didn't turn as much as expected, hit him in front of off, and he was ruled out. The ball had a massive distance to travel, and the ball-tracking predicted it would have hit the outside of off stump. Conventional wisdom would have ruled it in the batsman's favour, and even Gayle lost his cool when he saw the finger come up.
With an unreliable batting order, pampered by the true Bangalore surface and short boundaries, to follow, it was down to the only survivor of the Royal Challengers' 2009 choke, Virat Kohli, to shepherd the rest through. However, he found himself batting with a trigger-happy Mayank Agarwal, who despite all his attempts at power hitting managed 14 off 19 before holing out to long-off. Even when the desperate Agarwal got out, the Royal Challengers needed a manageable 73 off 57.
Kohli felt the pinch too. Perhaps it was the presence of Malinga in the end, perhaps it was just the shock of having to work hard for the runs after Bangalore, but even he didn't show the willingness to take the game to the deep end. In the next over he holed out to deep midwicket. Everybody knew it was game over there and then.
The rest were just a blurry procession of catching and stumping practice. A complete contrast to how Franklin managed a strike-rate of close to 150 without a shot hit in anger. There was no dearth of madness around him either. Sarul Kanwar first ran Aiden Bliazzard out before slogging around a full delivery. Ambati Rayudu struggled to find singles in the middle, and a positive 40-run stand with Suryakumar Yadav ended with a run-out.
Franklin soon caught on with the times, stopping and running in his second to complete the third run-out. Kieron Pollard's massive leading edge travelled as far as long-off, and MI were in a tailspin after looking good for a repeat of their 160 from the semi-final. Although it didn't look enough at the moment, Malinga's two sixes in the end turned out to be surplus.