Mumbai Indians clinch last-ball thriller against Chennai Super Kings to win record fourth IPL crown
Mumbai Indians go where no other franchise have gone before. (BCCI Image)

The experience of Lasith Malinga trumped the Shane Watson‘s determination, allowing Mumbai Indians to clinch a last-ball thriller against Chennai Super Kings and winning their fourth IPL title, the most by any team in history. Malinga, whose first three overs were plundered for 42 runs, lifted himself from the ashes and delivered an admirable final over which needed MI nine to defend.

The equation bowled down to two needed off the final delivery, the possibility of yet another Super Over looming large. But Malinga sent down a slower delivery, foxing Shardul Thakur. Up went the finger and Mumbai maintained their untainted record against Chennai this year. With the win, MI get the better of CSK for a third time.

Watson had saved his best for the big match final. Last year, he had sizzled with a match-winning century which led CSK to a third IPL title, and on Sunday, for a second season in a row, the former Australia opener chose the biggest occasion to rise up to. Enjoying a charmed life, Watson seemed to have put CSK on course, but his run out in the final over, turned the game on its head, and MI cashed in.

Watson was aided by some poor fielding from MI, who put him down not once, not twice, but three times. Add to that the overthrows and the byes, MI were extremely sloppy. Despite picking up three wickets in quick succession, Watson drilled 20 runs off the 15th over by Malinga, which eased the nerves. Dwayne Bravo’s dismissal offered MI a ray of hope, and it was down to 13 needed off seven balls. Of all the people, Quinton de Kock behind the stumps failed to collect a Bumrah bouncer and the ball raced away for a boundary. But as it turned out, like Watson, Malinga too had saved his best for the last. If this is indeed their final IPL, what a way to go out.

Deepak Chahar and Imran Tahir had bowled splendidly to restrict MI to 149/8 on a decent batting surface. Watson hadn’t done badly this year, heading into the chase with a couple of half-centuries. Coming off his and Faf du Plessis’ match-winning stand against the Delhi Capitals in Qualifier 2, the openers began the chase positively with a couple of early boundaries before the South Africa captain launched a six and a couple of boundaries off Krunal Pandya. However, a rush of adrenaline got the better of du Plessis, and after stepping out to a wide and full delivery, he was out stumped by fellow countryman Quinton de Kock.

After Suresh Raina and Watson had added 40 for the second wicket, a quicker one from legspinner Chahar trapped the left-hander out LBW, although he went upstairs for an unsuccessful review. That is when MI bounced back. Jasprit Bumrah beat Ambati Rayudu for pace, with his bouncer kissing his glove and landing in de Kock’s gloves. The telling blow came in the form of MS Dhoni, who ran himself out sneaking for an overthrow.

With wickets falling in quick succession, Watson, who had scored a century for CSK in last year’s final, decided to take matters into his own hands. And the bowler he targeted was Malinga. He decided to inflict further damage of the fast bowler by creaming him for three boundaries in a row in the 16th over, after Bravo had muscled Malinga for a six already.

Clearly, MI had to get Watson. Malinga had a chance when he had a top edge off Watson coming his way, but he spilled it to give the former Australia batsman a reprieve. It wasn’t the only life he had, with Rahul Chahar also putting down a bullet return catch. Three catches dropped, and even that wasn’t enough to prevent Chennai from going down.

Had Kieron Pollard’s knock of 41 off 25 balls not arrived in time at the death for MI, the result could have already been a foregone conclusion. Opting to bat first, de Kock got MI off to a blistering start. He took on Chahar on for three sixes in the third over to launch an early assault. De Kock, finding the middle of his bat, then attacked Shardul Thakur, flaying him for a monster hit into the stands to get MI cruising inside the Powerplay. However, in an attempt to launch his fifth six, he was done in by the pace of Thakur and gloves a pull to Dhoni.

Rohit Sharma smoked a thunderous pull of Chahar over deep square leg and gained in confidence with a sweep off Harbhajan Singh before nicking an ambitious drive. Harbhajan’s spin coupled with Bravo’s variations tied MI down, with just 13 scored between overs six and nine, one of which was a wicket-maiden by Chahar.

Ishan Kishan broke the shackles and clubbed three boundaries. Suryakumar Yadav survived a close chance when one of his heaves escaped Ravindra Jadeja sprinting from deep midwicket to what could have been the catch of the tournament. MI were just beginning to gain steam again, before Dhoni pulled off another ace – Tahir.

The legspinner struck second ball into his spell with Yadav playing on. CSK built on it with Thakur pulling off a sensational catch off his own bowling that saw him sprint more than 30 yards to hang on to a top edge from Krunal Pandya. With spinners bowling a tight line, the pressure mounted on MI batsmen and Kishan paid the price, top edging a slog sweep to take Tahir’s tally to 26 wickets in this edition, the most by a spinner across a season.

MI fell back upon the two players, who have time and again bailed them out of trouble and even though Pandya fell cheaply, Pollard struck two boundaries to cap off the innings.

Brief Scores: Mumbai Indians 149/8 (Kieron Pollard 41, Quinton de Kock 29, Deepak Chahar 3-26, Imran Tahir 2-23) beat Chennai Super Kings 148/7 (Shane Watson 80, Faf du Plessis 26, Jasprit Bumrah 2-14, Rahul Chahar 1-14) by 1 run.