Until Manvinder Bisla, unexpectedly, exploded in a flurry of incandescent strokeplay, Chennai Super Kings looked to done everything they needed to against Kolkata Knight Riders to complete a hat-trick of IPL triumphs.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni won a significant toss on a very good batting surface at the MA Chidambaram Stadium and did the obvious by opting to bat. Michael Hussey and M Vijay got the defending champions off to a rollicking start in the final of IPL V, and Suresh Raina then produced his best innings of the competition as the Super Kings amassed 190 for three.
When Ben Hilfenhaus breached Gautam Gambhir's defences in the first over of the chase, chants of 'CSK, CSK' resonated around the packed stadium, the home fans believing victory was a mere formality. ( Related: Check the awards and honours bestowed after the match)
No team had chased more than 170 successfully to beard the Chennai lion in its own den. The Knight Riders turned that statistic on its head through Bisla's brilliance, though they needed the calm of Jacques Kallis and two boundaries by Manoj Tiwary in Dwayne Bravo's final over of the final to eke out a five-wicket victory with two balls to spare and surge to their maiden IPL title in a tense finish.
Bisla's inclusion in the playing eleven was a direct consequence of Lakshmipathi Balaji being rendered unavailable due to a hamstring strain. Brett Lee was called in to bolster the bowling, which meant Brendon McCullum had to be left out. Bisla did a tidy job behind the stumps, but it was his pyrotechnics in front of them that settled the issue. (Also see: Match in pics and Celebs wish KKR)
Gambhir's fourth-ball dismissal could have been a body blow, but Bisla calmed nerves in the dugout with a sensational assault on Albie Morkel to set the ball rolling. After three quiet overs, Bisla charged Morkel and smashed him to 20 runs in the fourth, repeatedly driving beautifully over the in-field on the offside.
Kallis was a steady, calming influence at the other end, happy to feed his younger partner the strike and helping keep Bisla's enthusiasm in check. The 27-year-old, it must be stressed, hardly put a foot wrong, donning his dancing shoes against the off-spin of R Ashwin and driving crisply to mock the length of the straight-field boundary.
Dhoni rang in the changes but Bisla was a man possessed. The Chennai Super Kings bowlers were forced to experiment and consequently paid a heavy price, Bisla comprehensively dominating the 82-ball second-wicket stand of 136 with Kallis.
A century appeared to be his for the taking when Bisla upper-cut a slower bouncer from Morkel to point.
Laxmi Ratan Shukla and Yusuf Pathan fell to needless extravagance but Kallis held his poise and picked off crucial boundaries.
Kallis's departure, caught off a full toss from the parsimonious Hilfenhaus, left the match finely poised but the Aussie blotted his evening with a waist-high full toss to Shakib Al Hasan that was called a no-ball, the subsequent delivery netting a four. Tiwary picked off Bravo in the final over to trigger wild celebrations in the Shah Rukh Khan-led KKR camp.
The evening had been all about the Super Kings, who systematically dismantled the Sunil Narine threat. Vijay was once again in his elements and Hussey wasn't far behind as run flowed at breakneck speed. Like they had done in last year's final against Royal Challengers Bangalore, the openers set a wonderful platform by putting on 87, setting the stage for Raina to flex his muscles.
Raina has struggled for form all tournament but was in his elements on Sunday, striking the ball long and hard as he became the only batsman to top 400 runs in every single IPL season. His assault on Narine, the mystery man, was breathtaking; there was a delicate dab to square third man, a massive pull over midwicket and a drive that sailed over long-off, Narine going for 33 in his last three overs.
The Super Kings might have felt they had enough in the bank, but the Knight Riders weren't to be denied. In Bisla, they unearthed an unlikely hero, and even though they left it late, they emerged deserving winners after a cracking contest.