Mumbai Indians completed one of the most remarkable turnarounds in the eight-year history of the Indian Premier League by transforming a terrible start to the tournament – they were at the bottom of the table for the first two weeks – into a title win.
The final, a repeat of their 2013 success at the same ground against the same opposition, turned out to be one of the easier outings after an unbridled early onslaught by Rohit Sharma and Lendl Simmons, both of whom hit half-centuries, stunned Chennai Super Kings – veterans of IPL finals – into submission. Super Kings were not even given a sniff.
MS Dhoni’s choice of bowling first on a patchy Eden Gardens pitch was interesting, not because he might have over-compensated for the presence of dew later on but because it was a departure from a strategy that had worked for Super Kings during in their two previous title wins – bat first, score big, then apply the squeeze.
The start was perfect; Faf du Plessis ran out Parthiv Patel brilliantly and Ashish Nehra ensured only one came off the first over. But that was it, because once Rohit tore into the second over, picking 16 off Mohit Sharma, Super Kings were always chasing the ball.
R Ashwin was introduced in the fourth over, overstepped once and paid the price with a 12-run over. Jadeja was also bowled inside the Powerplay but Simmons smashed him for 14 runs to make it 61 runs off the first six. After seeing Rohit kick-start the innings with a flurry of boundaries in the first three overs, Simmons had played all but one ball in the next three and had overtaken Rohit.
The spreading of field was not going to have an effect on the tiny outfield. Simmons continued hogging majority of strike and continued finding boundaries to reach his sixth half-century of the season in the 10th over.
The run-rate showed no signs of stemming but Dhoni continued to hold back Dwayne Bravo, the leading wicket-taker of the tournament. As fate had it, it was Bravo who broke the dangerous stand in his first over – the 12th of the innings – by which time Rohit, too, had reached his half-century, of just 24 balls, and the run-rate was hovering around 10.
An animated speech by Dhoni in the team huddle at Rohit’s dismissal had a brief effect: Dwayne Smith sent Simmons back with his first ball of the tournament and 30 runs came off four overs. But on 150 after 16 overs with Kieron Pollard and Ambati Rayudu warmed up, Mumbai Indians were waiting to explode.
Nehra bore the brunt – he was hit for three sixes and a four in the 17th by Pollard – and Mumbai Indians finished for only the second ever 200-plus total in an IPL final.
Super Kings’ chase needed early thrust but it never came. Smith, as had happened throughout the season, struggled to time the ball. He did reach a half-century – his second this season – but Super Kings needed more from him than a strike rate of 118. Harbhajan Singh dismissed Smith an over after he had removed Raina, Malinga struck too and Mitchell McClenaghan collected three. Super Kings’ wait for their third title entered its fifth year.
(Taken from ESPN Sports Media Ltd.)