Sunrisers choke RCB chase to seal first title

In their first IPL final, Sunrisers Hyderabad showed their intent early by opting to bat against Royal Challengers Bangalore at a venue where tall scores have been chased down nonchalantly. David Warner, their captain, top-scored with a 38-ball 69, before Ben Cutting finished the innings with an unbeaten 15-ball 39 to help them post 208 for 7. Eventually, however, it was Sunrisers’ bowling attack, the best in the tournament, that delivered their maiden IPL title with an eight-run win at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium.

Royal Challengers had passed 200 three times previously at home this season and there was no reason why they could not do so again on Sunday, except the pressure of chasing in a final. It did not affect Chris Gayle and Virat Kohli, though, as the opening pair wiped out 114 in 10.3 overs. Gayle alone contributed 76, with four fours and eight sixes. Sunrisers’ attack was under pressure, but they clinically applied the brakes after Gayle’s wicket.

Even with Gayle, Kohli and AB de Villiers dismissed, 47 off 24 balls was still within reach. Shane Watson, Stuart Binny and Sachin Baby had to contend with two threats. One was Mustafizur Rahman’s cutters, delivered with unfailing accuracy after a rough second over in which Kohli took him apart. The reward for his persistence was the wicket of Watson, who miscued a slog to cover. Bhuvneshwar Kumar then delivered four successive yorkers in the 18th over, leaving the hosts 30 to get off the last two overs. Then, with 18 to defend off the final over, he once again held his composure.

Shane Watson had a rare off day with the ball. He fed the batsmen an assortment of hittable deliveries – short, wide and full – to concede 61 off four wicketless overs, including 24 in his last over, the 20th of the Sunrisers innings.

Royal Challengers, however, had their batting guns. With only one fifty in nine innings leading up to the final, there were question marks over Gayle, but he was unperturbed, launching Barinder Sran for three sixes in his first two overs and lifting Royal Challengers to 42 for 0 after four.

Gayle brought up his half-century with another six, off Moises Henriques at the start of the seventh over, getting there in 25 balls. His rate of scoring gave Kohli the space to overcome a patchy start that brought him only one four in his first 18 balls, that too off a thick outside edge. Then an inside-out hit over the infield nearly carried to a diving Warner at long-off. Gayle finished that over, bowled by Henriques, with two sixes and a four raised Royal Challengers’ 100 in nine overs.

Warner brought back Mustafizur in the 10th over, and Kohli finally got going, squeezing him past cover for four and then lofting him over the long-off boundary. With the asking rate under control, Gayle tactfully rotated the strike. Royal Challengers were cruising.

Then came the turbulence: Gayle, Kohli and de Villiers fell in the space of 20 balls, and Royal Challengers slipped to 148 for 3. They needed 61 off 37 and they needed Watson to make up for his lapses with the ball. He swatted Henriques for six over long-on, but his dismissal in the 17th over, immediately following that of KL Rahul, left Royal Challengers with too much to do in too little time.

The platform for Sunrisers’ win was set by Warner. With Kohli employing a deep point to block his cut, the Sunrisers captain brought out the straight lofted hits. When the ball was not in his half, he was happy to back away to open up the off side or carve the ball behind square. The result was eight fours and three sixes for his ninth fifty of the tournament, which he ended as its second-highest run-getter.

Yuzvendra Chahal bowled more floaters than legspinners to Warner, but they skidded on and ended up giving the batsman hitting room. Warner used that room to cut him for two fours in the ninth over to bring up his fifty off only 24 balls, equalling the record for the fastest half-century in an IPL final. As his innings progressed, he was not afraid to walk across the stumps, and use the depth of the crease to get underneath full deliveries.

Yuvraj Singh, who came in at 97 for 2 in the 10th over, sustained Sunrisers’ momentum. He got going with a punchy off-drive off Watson, and then flicked Chris Jordan for six behind square. The swagger and the the free-flowing bat swing were back. With four fours and two sixes, he raced to 38 and before he fell to Jordan’s slower ball. Yuvraj’s dismissal came in the 17th over, soon after those of Warner and Deepak Hooda. At 148 for 5, it looked like Royal Challengers could reel back Sunrisers in the slog.

Cutting ensured that wouldn’t happen. He stayed deep in the crease, shortening the length of attempted yorkers, and clobbered the low full-tosses and half-volleys. Batting on 16 off 10 at the start of the final over, he hit Watson for 4, 6, 6 and 1 before coming back on strike for the final ball of the over, which he launched high over long-off. That over went for 24 and proved match-turning: playing their third final, Royal Challengers lost for the third time.