It wasn't quite the great final Rahul Dravid had hoped for, but the title clash of Pepsi IPL 2013 was no less edifying, courtesy a wonderful display of hostile pace bowling from Mumbai Indians. (Scorecard)
Chennai Super Kings are the masters of the big occasion, but in their fifth final in six editions, they were blown away by the sheer ferocity of the Mumbai attack, spearheaded by Lasith Malinga and Mitchell Johnson. In front of a full house at the Eden Gardens on Sunday (May 26) night, the two-time former champions were brought to their knees by an inspired Mumbai outfit which surged to its maiden title with a most convincing 23-run triumph in a one-sided clash. (Read: Sachin announces retirement from IPL)
Chennai began the match strongly after Rohit Sharma opted to put runs on the board in a cup final, strangling two wickets inside the first seven deliveries and bowling with the discipline and nous one has come to expect of them. It took a spectacular unbeaten 60 off just 32 deliveries from Kieron Pollard - who astonishingly only faced 13 balls in the last five overs - for Mumbai to reach some kind of respectability, for 148 for 9 was no more than that.
Malinga has generally come on second, sometimes third-change, for most of this competition, but aware that his team needed to make an early statement, and early inroads, Rohit summoned Malinga, to bowl the first over. It turned out to be a masterstroke. (Match pics: How Mumbai clinched the title)
Malinga, all nerves and profligacy in Qualifier 2 against Rajasthan Royals, fired out Michael Hussey with a screaming, inswinging yorker off the third delivery of the chase, then had Suresh Raina fending a lifting delivery to short square-leg off the next delivery. Chennai never really recovered from losing their two most prolific scorers so early in their reply and slipped rapidly to 39 for 6. And when the spinners stepped in to do some damage of their own, it was all over. Mahendra Singh Dhoni, batting too low at No. 7, made a battling unbeaten 63 but was always ploughing a lone furrow as Chennai subsided to 125 for 9, and a chastening defeat. (Watch Analysis: Chennai batsmen played like they wanted to lose)
It wasn't, however, a Malinga show alone by any stretch of the imagination. Johnson too cranked up the pace - both men regularly topped the 140 kmph mark - and played his part, forcing a loose drive from S Badrinath to a wide delivery outside off, then coming back to get rid of M Vijay, top-edging a pull and putting up a skier to cover. Malinga and Johnson together unleashed high-octane quick bowling on a pitch that wasn't the paciest by any account, temporarily helping the fans forget the depressing off-field events of the past ten days and partake of wholesome entertainment.
Mumbai's batting stint was neither the most impressive nor the most intelligent, particularly in the last fourth of their innings when Pollard was a mute spectator at the non-striker's end. Dwayne Smith, their form player, was undone by a delivery from Mohit Sharma that jagged back in in the first over and Aditya Tare received an excellent yorker first-ball from Albie Morkel. Rohit then tamely poked Morkel back to him, forcing Dinesh Karthik and Ambati Rayudu to rebuild rather than look to accelerate.
Karthik played some pleasing strokes through the offside, driving handsomely on the up, though it was one such stroke that proved his undoing, the ball going off inside edge on to his pad and then on to his stumps. The 36-run Karthik-Rayudu stand had steadied the ship somewhat, but at 52 for 4 in the 10th, Mumbai had plenty of work ahead of them.
Fortunately for them, the man walking in knew a thing or two about striking a cricket ball. Pollard smashed his first delivery, from Chris Morris, back past him, the ball crashing into the boards at long-off long before the bowler had completed his followthrough. He did offer a half-chance off Ravindra Jadeja, but R Ashwin at slip was a trifle wide and a trifle slow to react, and the moment had passed. Pollard was then just six out of 66 for 4 in the 12th; he took that as his cue to lash out, launching Ashwin for a giant six over deep mid-wicket to set the ball rolling.
Rayudu, enterprising in Karthik's company, was happy to play second fiddle, clearly the junior partner as he scored just 10 in a fifth-wicket stand of 48. His dismissal at the start of the last block of five overs was untimely, but till such time that Pollard was around, Mumbai were always in with a chance of posting a competitive total.
Dwayne Bravo got rid of Rayudu with a full delivery on his way to figures of 4 for 42 and the Purple Cap with 32 wickets - the first time a bowler has topped 30 wickets in a season - but it was all about Pollard towards the end. When he did get the strike, he made it count, hammering fours and sixes at will to reach 50 in just 31 deliveries. On another day, Mumbai might have paid for denying Pollard so much of the strike at the death, but with their bowlers in such jaw-dropping form, it was almost inconsequential.