A phenomenon called the Mumbai Indians

Mumbai Indians had lost thrice to Rising Pune Supergiant this season. Only one team had managed to win the IPL Title after losing the first Qualifier. Mumbai were reduced to 79/7 in the final, in danger of becoming the first team to be bowled out in a final, but somehow survived to post 129. Rising Pune Supergiant were the favourites to win their first IPL Title. But they didn’t. Mumbai pulled off the match of the season and won by the unbelievably slim margin of 1-run.

The final toss of the Indian Premier League, 2017 was flipped by Rohit Sharma and Steven Smith called incorrectly. Rohit Sharma did what the statistics urged the winner of the coin-toss to do, bat first. The line-ups were simple: Mumbai Indians and Rising Pune Supergiant were both unchanged from their previous match against Kolkata Knight Riders and Mumbai Indians, respectively.

Jaydev Unadkat had the pristine white ball in hand and started against the now-familiar opening pair of Lendl Simmons and Parthiv Patel. History dictated that one MI opener has fallen for a duck in each of their preceding finals, but to the fans’ relief, both Parthiv and Lendl got off the mark, unscathed. Unadkat, to his credit, gave no freebies away, and just 3 runs were managed off the first over. Pune’s strike-bowler from the previously match, Washington Sundar, bowled the second over of the match and with the ball holding up in the pitch, allied to his unerring accuracy, Mumbai could only squeeze 3 singles and a brace off the over. Mumbai were 7/0 after the second over.

The pressure of these dots got to Parthiv Patel as an off-cutter from Unadkat got big on the diminutive ‘keeper-batsman. His pull could only find Shardul Thakur at mid-on and Mumbai had lost their first wicket at 7. Rayudu crunched his first ball, but could only find the point-fielder, before knocking the next ball away for a single. The next ball again slowed up in the pitch and found Simmons’ leading edge. The ball popped up and Unadkat to his immense credit took a fantastic catch in his follow through to leave Mumbai stunned. Mumbai were 9/2 after the third over and the pressure was squarely on Mumbai.

Sundar twirled away at the other end. Much like his first over, Sundar began tidily with a couple of dots. Despite the third ball being knocked away for a single, the next ball was an absolute beauty that beat Rayudu’s outside edge. A single knocked off the final ball was all that Mumbai could manage and we were still looking for our first boundary of the match. The search continued through the fifth over, bowled by Shardul Thakur. Despite a wide and a few singles, Mumbai still had yet to hit a boundary.

The drought finally ended with the first ball of Lockie Ferguson’s first over, with Rohit bisecting the gap between cover-point and backward-point with pinpoint accuracy. As is the case with life, another boundary came quickly with a Ferguson’s pace being expertly used by Rohit playing a tickle fine, before a fortuitous edge found the ropes for the third boundary. Rohit put the icing on the cake with an exquisite cover drive as Mumbai doubled their score in this over and found themselves 32/2 at the end of the powerplay.

Zampa was brought on to bowl the first over after the powerplay ended and the runs were now starting to come for the Mumbai Indians. Rayudu crunched a short ball for four behind point and got a brace the next ball, before fortuitously getting an under-edge to short fine-leg. After going at barely 3-an-over after the first five overs, Mumbai were back in business and going at nearly 6-an-over after the 7th. Disaster struck in the next over, though with Rayudu crunching a drive straight to Steven Smith at long-off. Unwisely, he decided to take on his arm, with the gamble failing as he was found short by a foot. Krunal Pandya, the man to guide Mumbai to safety against Kolkata Knight Riders got a deserved promotion to number 5.

Nerves were evident immediately, though not with bat in hand as Pandya timed a ball so sweetly that a push nearly travelled to the fence. Pandya called Rohit through for a third, with Krunal running to the danger end, before being sent back: Thankfully for the batsmen, no damage was done as the fielder threw the ball to the wrong end. Nevertheless, the scoreline still read 46/3 after the 8th over. Adam Zampa found his range the next over as Rohit and Krunal were struggling to time the time, notwithstanding a wide bowled. Krunal brought up Mumbai’s fifty off the final ball of the 9th over with a single to short fine-leg.

Steven Smith gave Washington Sundar his third over and immediately posed questions with his accuracy and drift. Krunal Pandya displayed the first hint of intent, taking on Sundar off the last ball and executing a lovely flowing lofted cover drive for a boundary. The score moved along to 56/3 at the end of the tenth over. Unfortunately, Rohit tried to demonstrate some attacking intent by going after Adam Zampa, but he could only hit it down Shardul Thakur’s throat at deep-midwicket. The game was delicately poised at 56/4 after 10.1 overs as Kieron Pollard joined Krunal Pandya at the crease.

Pollard, Mumbai’s leading run-scorer, in finals before today, hit the first ball he faced for a monstrous six over long-on. He surely must have been wondering what the fuss was all about, given the sluggish batting that preceded his arrival at the crease! Steven Smith was wary of the threat that Pollard posed and kept a very straight long-off. Zampa tossed one up and got Pollard to fall for the trap when he hit the ball low and flat to Manoj Tiwary kept in that very spot. Pollard and Mumbai could not believe their eyes as the score slid further to 65/5. Hardik Pandya joined his brother at the crease, with a solid partnership the need of the hour. Washington Sundar bowled out at the other end, ending up with the fantastic figures of 4-0-13-0 and 15 dots.

Zampa, too bowled out his quota in the 13th over of the innings: A Hardik Pandya six over extra-cover (the 700th of the Indian Premier League) mirrored Pollard’s monstrous hit, before the brothers maneuvered the field expertly. The score ticked along to 76 with Zampa snaring two wickets, but bowling expensively, considering the context: conceding 32 runs.

Daniel Christian was drafted into the attack the next over. Hardik began by exposing his stumps and flicking him for a brace off his first ball. The next ball, Christian got one to dart into Hardik’s stumps and struck plumb in front: Hardik was gone and Mumbai slid further to 78/6. Karn Sharma walked into the crease, but struggled to put bat on ball as Christian angled the ball away from the left-hander. Shardul Thakur came on to bowl his second over and some questionable running handed Rising Pune Supergiant a wicket. Thakur got one to nip away from Karn Sharma who edged it to Dan Christian at a floating slip. Christian failed to cling on to the tough chance, but was alive to Karn Sharma wandering down the wicket: Shardul Thakur saw the opportunity at hand and ran him out. The score was 79/7 with Mumbai looking in deep trouble.

From maximizing the runs from the remaining overs left, the focus switched to survival as Mitchell Johnson strode to the crease. Johnson cleared the first hurdled, playing out remainder of the fifteenth over as Mumbai limped to 81/7. The sixteenth over was a quiet one for Mumbai, but thankfully no further wickets fell as Krunal and Johnson were content to play Dan Christian out, eking out 5 runs in the process. Unadkat was brought back on to break the evolving stand, but Johnson and Krunal were resolute in defence, determined not to give their wicket away. Unadkat continued from where he left off and conceded just 4 runs off the bat (and six runs in all) in that over.

Mitchell Johnson used the long handle to good effect off Dan Christian, clubbing a rising ball for a huge six, before giving the strike back to Krunal to bring up the team 100 for Mumbai Indians. Krunal Pandya then latched onto a wide full ball and smashed it to the point fence to up the run-rate and get it within striking distance of 120.

Unadkat would bowl out in the penultimate over of the innings. The first four balls were bang on the money, but Krunal took matters into his own hands as he slogged Unadkat’s fifth ball for a massive six over deep-midwicket. Suddenly, Mumbai were looking at posting a competitive total. Dan Christian was given the responsibility of bowling out and for the first time in the innings, the Pune bowlers looked a little lost. Christian started with a wide, before Pandya clubbed a four to tick the score to 120. The next ball was a wide, another bonus, before Christian erred by bowling full which Pandya slogged for a massive six. Despite Pandya holding out to Rahane off the final ball of the innings, Mumbai posted 129/8 after their 20 overs. The partnership between Johnson and Krunal Pandya was an even-50 runs in just under 6 overs and helped the team to post a fighting total. Nevertheless, Mumbai would need to start well to shift the pressure back on to the Rising Pune Supergiant.

Who would Mumbai start with? Malinga, or Johnson? No, it would be Krunal Pandya to bowl to Ajinkya Rahane and the impressive Rahul Tripathi. Bowling with unerring accuracy, Krunal started off well, bowling his first 5 balls on the spot, before dropping his last slightly short. Rahane cashed in and Pune were away at 6/0 after the first over. Mitchell Johnson would start from the other end, but started off bowling too straight as the openers picked him off for singles, before the final ball deflected off Tripathi’s thigh guard for 4 leg byes.

Jasprit Bumrah bowled the third over, with the need of the hour being wickets. Rahane started off confidently with a glorious straight drive for a triple, but the next ball was spot on and caught Tripathi in two minds whether to go forwards, or back and pinned him leg-before-wicket. Pune were 17/1 and Mumbai were on the board, with Steven Smith walking on to bat. Rahane again latched onto a shortish ball that pierced the gap for another triple, before Bumrah tightened up and ended the over with successive dot balls. Pune were 21/1 as Malinga was brought on to bowl the fourth over.

Malinga started off well with 2 runs off the first three balls, before anguish. Malinga got his cutter to hold off the surface, Rahane was too early in on the shot and spooned a dolly to Krunal at short extra-cover. Despite his best efforts, it spilled out and Rahane was handed a life. Malinga got over the disappointment and rounded out the over with two dots, as Pune managed just a couple of his over. Karn Sharma was fifth bowler to bowl inside the powerplay, but wasn’t able to nail either batsman to the crease, as 9 runs were easily scored by the RPS batsmen and the score ticked on to 32/1.

Ajinkya Rahane was looking increasingly like the proverbial thorn-in-the-side for Mumbai Indians as he wasn’t unduly troubled by anything that Mumbai had offered so far, save that one chance off Malinga’s bowling. He laced a beautiful square drive off a fuller Malinga quicker ball for four as RPS moved on to 38/1 after the powerplay, slightly ahead of where Mumbai were at this stage of the innings. Karn Sharma bowled his second of the innings, Mumbai’s seventh, but success eluded the legspinner.

Jasprit Bumrah was brought back on, but Bumrah erred by bowling a tad too short and with the slowness of the pitch, Rahane and Smith had no difficulty in maneuvering the ball for singles to tick the scoreboard along. Pune brought up their 50 with Steve Smith getting an inside edge off Karn Sharma’s bowling, but the dots and pressure was mounting slightly against RPS. The required run rate crept to slightly above 7 runs an over. Rahane took on a short bouncer off the bowling of Mitchell Johnson and hooked it for four to keep up with the required run-rate as Pune were 58/1 at the half-way mark of the innings. Rahane kept up with the run-rate the next over too, with a powerful sweep off Krunal’s second ball that went for four.

Steve Smith, 13 off 22 at the end of the 11th over, took on Mitchell Johnson and square-cut his compatriot for four. However, Rahane went after Johnson in the same over, which wasn’t required given the match situation: All he could was mistime a lofted shot in the vicinity of Kieron Pollard. Pollard made up a lot of ground and dived forward to take his 14th catch of the season. Ajinkya Rahane had to depart after making a well-made 44 and Mumbai had broken a dangerous stand of 54 between Rahane and Smith. At the end of the 12th over Pune required 7.37 runs an over to win, with Dhoni and Smith at the crease.

Karn Sharma was brought on to bowl his final over of the day. Despite not taking a wicket, Karn Sharma kept the runs down to a minimum as just two runs were all RPS could manage, courtesy some pressure bowling and sharp fielding. Krunal Pandya continued the good work as Dhoni and Smith, both striking at under 70 runs/100 balls, looked to play him out: The required run rate was touching 9 at the end of the 15th over and the pressure was palpable as Malinga was brought on to bowl.

No boundaries were bowled off the over, but that didn’t mean there was no action: The first couple of balls went for a single apiece, with the third one resulting in a yorker as Dhoni backed away to leg. The fourth ball was speared into the pads and should have been dispatched for a boundary, but only found Simmons, who atoned for his error a couple of overs ago, with a sharp throw to keep the pair to a single. The fifth ball was an absolute peach: Speared into Smith’s pads, who did well to get an inside edge. The inside edge cannoned into his instep and ricocheted centimetres away from the wicket: Parthiv’s reaction, one of disbelief, encapsulated it beautifully. 5 overs were remaining and Pune needed 47 runs at 9.40 runs to the over.

Krunal Pandya was roped in to bowl out and Pune sensed the moment to go after the bowling. A couple of singles were knocked around before Krunal cracked and slipped a shorter ball that Dhoni gleefully dispatched for four through backward-point. A single off the fourth ball was conceded, before Steven Smith, taking a leaf out of Glenn Maxwell’s book, switch-hit Krunal for a towering six, the first of their innings. Suddenly the run rate fell to 8.25 runs an over with four overs to go.

Jasprit Bumrah, hero of the match against Gujarat Lions, was drafted in to bowl the 16th over. A quiet over was needed, a wicket would be a bonus. Bumrah delivered both: getting the second ball to kiss Dhoni’s outside edge with Parthiv doing the rest. The fifth ball of the over skidded on to catch Manoj Tiwary on his pads, but it was marginally outside the line as S Ravi called correctly under pressure. Bumrah didn’t let up with his last ball, again rapping Tiwary on his pads. The hundred was up for Pune, but the pressure was back on, with the Supergiant requiring an even 10 runs an over off the final three overs.

Lasith Malinga came into this match having had his poorest season, statistically. The pressure was on Pune, for sure, but given his bowling this season, Pune and Steven Smith would be looking to take him on in this over. How did he respond? Brilliantly. A dot off the first ball was followed up with a yorker squeezed away to long-on for a single. Manoj Tiwary would be required to give the strike back to Smith and he did just that off the third ball. Three runs, 3 balls, the fourth was vintage Malinga. A pinpoint accurate yorker that speared into Smith’s pads harked back to the Malinga of the past. More importantly, Smith couldn’t get anything on it. The fifth ball witnessed Malinga err and Steven Smith dispatched him for a boundary. Nevertheless, with two overs to go, 23 runs were required off 12 balls.

Jasprit Bumrah bowled out in the penultimate over. Experts agree just how crucial this over is, as it dictates plans for the twentieth over. The first ball almost went to plan, despite it being a bad ball: Smith nearly hit a full-toss down Hardik Pandya’s throat, but it fell short. The second ball was a slower ball that Tiwary could hit for a single. The third and fourth conceded only two runs, with the equation standing at 19 runs off 10 balls. Bumrah blinked first. He delivered a full ball straight into Smith’s arc that he launched for six. 13 off 7 balls now. Bumrah bowled a high full toss which Smith managed to dispatch for a couple. 11 runs off the final over, with Bumrah conceding 12 runs.

This is what kids dream of. The last over, 11 runs required, two new batsmen at the crease. Who would bowl? Mitchell Johnson. He, who took 2/19 off four overs, the first-time Mumbai won the IPL. The left-arm bowler who was McClenaghan’s understudy for much of the season. The pacer who tormented batsmen the world over. But was he up to it? Would he be able to defend 11 runs?

What would he bowl first up? An off-cutter as it would turn out. Tiwary read Johnson perfectly and slog swept him for a four. 7 runs off 5 balls, it’s RPS’ match to lose now. Another off-cutter, Tiwary backs away and tries to loft him for six. The bat turns in his hand and who is under it? The most prolific catcher this season: Kieron Pollard. The big bucket hands curled around the ball as he completed the catch. 7 runs off four balls, but Steven Smith was on strike.

Steven Smith, the anchor of the innings (and the anchor that RPS revolved around this season) faced up to his compatriot. Johnson bounded in, trusting his instincts and bowled a fuller ball. Smith opted for timing, not power, but this time his timing let him down. The ball was homing towards the home-town boy, Ambati Rayudu. Surely Steven Smith, who played so calmly and assuredly, pick out the only fielder on the boundary on the off-side? He did. Rayudu took a pressure catch, but more importantly it was a precious dot. 7 runs were now required off 3 balls and Johnson was on a hat-trick.

Johnson backed himself again, opting for a furious yorker against Washington Sundar. Spare a thought for the young 17-year old, batting for the fifth time this season, having faced just 11 balls before tonight in this tournament. He couldn’t get anything on the ball, but with Daniel Christian backing up virtually half-way down the pitch, all he needed to do was scamper down the track. 6 runs were required off 2 balls. The tension could be cut with a knife.

Johnson bounded in to bowl against Dan Christian, another compatriot. Christian backed away, Johnson followed him. Christian swung with all his might and launched the ball flat towards deep midwicket. Hardik hared in to meet the ball, but despite an acrobatic effort could not cling onto the ball. Christian sprinted back for a couple to keep the equation down to 4 runs off the final ball.

If you were the bowler, what would you do? Where would you bowl? Johnson bounded in for the last ball of the Indian Premier League, 2017 with Daniel Christian facing. The ball was a short-of-a-length yorker that Daniel Christian tried to smash back to Pune. He couldn’t, but the ball was scurrying to Jagadeesha Suchith at boundary’s edge. Jagadeesha slid down and fumbled the pick-up. Christian and Sundar needed to run three to force a Super Over. Jagadeesha took a moment to determine the end to throw at. It was all he needed as he launched a rocket-like throw to Parthiv Patel. Christian desperately called Sundar through for the suicidal third run, but it was hopeless. The pair couldn’t complete the triple and a run-out was inflicted. A one-run victory in an IPL final. Yes, you read that right.

It’s official. Mumbai Indians are the most successful team in the history of the Indian Premier League. This was the third IPL title for the Mumbai Indians, the most by any team. Rohit Sharma became the first person to play and win four separate IPL Finals. Additionally, he became the first captain to lead in three finals and win all. But the night wasn’t about statistics and records. If there ever was a match that encapsulated a season, it was this. Back-against-the-wall, with a total that could be considered sub-par, would require enormous effort to defend. Mumbai did, and the rest, as they say, is history!

 

 

 


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