Super Kings in a different league
Zaheer Khan surveyed his field. Short third man and backward point stood close enough to lean across and shake hands. Satisfied, the left-armer ran in, and angled the ball across Murali Vijay. After the merest hint of a back-and-across movement, the batsman opened his face and directed it into that gap. The ball wasnít travelling particularly fast, but the fielders didnít get anywhere near it, their turning radii suggestive of steamships rather than the streamlined athletes they were a day ago.
The Chennai Super Kings ó with three days of rest and relaxation behind them ó looked immeasurably fresher, physically and mentally, than the Royal Challengers, who were playing their second high-intensity match in two muggy Chennai nights. The last installment of their three-match mini-series was easily the most one-sided final in IPL history, Chennai defending their title with a thumping 58-run victory.
When Vijay and Michael Hussey walked out to the middle, plenty of the yellow seats in the new-look Chepauk galleries were still unoccupied, thanks to a traffic jam on Anna Salai, the aorta among Chennaiís arterial roads. For half an hour, the Bangalore fielders were spared the fanatical levels of home support that make the MA Chidambaram stadium such a fortress (the home side havenít conceded a game here this season). Vijay and Hussey kept them busy nevertheless, working the ball around with soft hands and haring between the wickets.
But by the time the powerplay ended, the stands were nearly full. Yellow flags waved dizzyingly to the curious mix of Bollywood, 90s pop and Tamil dappankoothu that emanated from the PA system whenever the openers breached or cleared the boundaries. This they did at a worrisome frequency for the Royal Challengers.
Hussey shovelled Syed Mohammad with the turn, and pulled Zaheer clinically. Vijay whipped Abhimanyu Mithun casually over the leg side, just out of reach of the backtracking Luke Pomersbach, and swatted Sreenath Aravind repeatedly over the midwicket fence, as if he were a housefly.
Vijay seldom looks anything but easy on the eye, but shot selection often undermines him just when he looks good for a big score. That didnít happen today. The only thing that threatened to interrupt his stay were the cramps that frequently left him doubled over after completing singles.
In the end, a tired shot, looping into coverís hands, stopped him five short of his second IPL hundred and the honour of becoming the first batsman to score a ton in a final. Gayle picked up two wickets in the 20th over, but Bravo launched the last ball over the sightscreen to take Chennai five beyond 200.
This was still gettable, of course, as long as Chris Gayle was around. But R Ashwin removed him for the second time in three meetings this season, getting one to bounce and cramp him on the cut. After that, the Royal Challengers came and went in an orderly, well-mannered way. Ashwin took two more wickets, and the other two spinners did their share as well ó Shadab Jakati scalping two and Suresh Raina swooping away in delight after trapping Virat Kohli in front. Saurabh Tiwary made the most of what little time was left, and scored an unbeaten 43, bringing a slightly downbeat end to the tournament by carving Raina for the most futile of sixes over extra cover.
May 28, Chennai, 8:00 pm
RCB won by 43 runs
Mumbai won by 4 wickets