By Jamie Alter
Chennai; May 28, 2011
Talk about coming to the party in style. Unbeaten in seven matches at home this season, Chennai Super Kings lorded it over Royal Challengers Bangalore at Twenty20’s version of the Gabba, the MA Chidambaram Stadium. CSK’s 205 equalled the third-highest total in this IPL, and it was easily the highest in IPL finals. The scores by their openers, Murali Vijay and Michael Hussey, also happened to be the two highest in IPL finals. And then they got Chris Gayle for 0. It was as convincing a win as they come, and once again CSK had saved their best for last.
It happened to Mumbai Indians in the 2010 IPL final and to the Warriors in the 2010 Champions League Twenty final. These two teams, have played good cricket to reach the summit, came undone by a far better team, and one which seized the little moments that so matter in matches like this. CSK were a team that had been to an IPL final thrice, and it showed.
The win was set up with the bat, when Vijay and Hussey put on a record partnership. There was intent in the running, and the sixes struck were shots to cherish. The batsmen knew what needed to be done at the summit. After all, Vijay had been Man of the Match in the second edition of the CLT20 in South Africa, a match in which he and Hussey had put on a century stand. Their communication that Hussey and Vijay share put CSK in pole position today – and this is CSK’s strength, the atmosphere they have created - after MS Dhoni opted to bat.
Both used their feet to collect two sixes apiece inside the Powerplay, not with brutality but with finesse. Vijay began with his trademark shot, the wallop off the front foot; Hussey got inside the line of a short ball and pulled it over deep backward square leg and then jumped out to J Syed Mohammed and dumped the ball over midwicket; Vijay’s second six, after he danced out to Gayle, raised CSK’s fastest fifty of the competition, in 31 balls.
The pair had collected four sixes before hitting a single four, and their success owed equally to some excellent running between the wickets and poor throwing from RCB, who conceded far too many overthrows. The ease with which the two collected their runs was impressive. They picked their hitting spots well and ran ten doubles and a three in the first ten overs, in addition to pinching 26 singles.
The only false shot played was in the tenth over, when Vijay attempted to heave the cover off the ball after just hitting a boundary. After the inside edge dribbled to the leg side, Hussey came over to Vijay and had a word with him. Immediately afterward, Vijay was seen shadowing the way he should have played that ball – with a straight bat.
The ability to suddenly accelerate was also superb. In the tenth over, Vijay hit two fours. In the 12th, bowled by Sreenath Aravind, CSK looted 18 runs with Vijay hitting two sixes. Eighteen runs came off the 15th over, during which RCB finally found success as Hussey holed out to long-in. That brought to the close the best opening stand for CSK – their previous best was 106 versus RCB in 2009 – and it came in the final. That was further testament to CSK’s ability to deliver the goods in knock-out situations.
RCB’s efforts were in stark contrast. They failed to seize the moments that matter in games of this magnitude. Inside the Powerplay, there were three overthrows; one went to the boundary. Luke Pomersbach was presented a chance in the tenth over when Vijay flicked over square leg, but didn’t get himself into position to catch it properly. Such a moment, with the opposition dominating, needed a reaction of brilliance but Pomersbach appeared overawed.
In the next over, Mohammed so nearly clung on to a tough caught and bowled and in the 12th over Aravind had a chance to run out Hussey but missed the stumps by some distance. It is moments like that which separate CSK from the rest. Suresh Raina’s excellent boundary catch to get Ambati Rayudu in the IPL 2010 final, as well as Shabad Jakati’s to hold JP Duminy in the same match, come to mind.
Once Gayle had been dismissed for 0 in the first over of RCB’s reply, it was all over. Only once in the IPL history had a team chased more than 205 to win - Rajasthan made 217 versus Deccan in 2008 – and with Gayle one there little chance of that happening again. Ravichandran Ashwin was excellent with the new ball, setting up Gayle smartly with two offbreaks and then adding Mayank Agarwal. Jakati prized out two wickets in two overs; Raina came on and grabbed one; when Ashwin returned for the 11th over he needed two balls to produce another wicket.
It was one of those days when everything went right for CSK. It was one of those days which they have grown accustomed to. It was one of those days when CSK rose above the opposition and, most importantly, raised their game to seize the passages of play which were most important.
(Jamie Alter is a freelance cricket writer, having worked at ESPNcricinfo and All Sports Magazine. He is the author of two books, The History of World Cup Cricket and Field of Dreams: The Story of the Dr. DY Patil Sports Stadium. His twitter feed is @jamie_alter)