CSK’s Middle-Order Steel Eclipses Sensational Sudharsan

Credit: IPL

MS Dhoni got out for a first-ball duck, and Chennai Super Kings (CSK) still snatched a last-ball win for their fifth Indian Premier League (IPL) title. This was an incredible match to cap the most exhilarating IPL season ever. Nobody knew where the match was headed until the last ball. T20 is an unpredictable format alright, but fortunes swinging from here to there in the space of a few balls is not usually seen. Bad luck, Gujarat Titans. They fought gallantly, but ultimately, had to succumb to a better team.

CSK’s super start

The start Chennai got made them the favourites to chase down that truncated total. Yes, the task became a tad easier because they were after 171 instead of 215, but what Devon Conway and Ruturaj Gaikwad did was clearly the pillar of Chennai’s fifth IPL win. They took down everything, kept hitting through the line and across the line. This was essential because their team was chasing something above 11 per over. That opening partnership of 74 in 6.3 overs was pivotal. Left-right combinations are always tricky for any attack and for the umpteenth time this season, Gaikwad and Conway displayed how devastating they can be.

Middle-order cameos

Chennai’s middle-order is made of some steel. They do not always make huge scores, but chip in when required. In the final, Ajinkya Rahane, Ambati Rayudu, Shivam Dube and Ravindra Jadeja all made telling contributions. They kept hitting the fours and sixes when the game appeared to be slipping out of their team’s grasp. Rahane spanking those massive sixes, Rayudu doing the same, Dube coming alive after a slow start and then Jadeja delivering those decisive blows in the end — this was terrific stuff. You do not necessarily need massive efforts to win T20 matches – this was the message sent loud and clear by Chennai this season. You need men for the big moments. And if you win those, you win the game.

The Sai super show

There is no doubt about this. Sai Sudarshan was the star of the final even though his team lost. He was good in the previous game as well, but to see him walk out ahead of Hardik Pandya and David Miller was somewhat surprising, considering that this was the biggest game. And what a show he put on! This was not slogging. It was calculated, strategic and highly skilled hitting. Those drives through the off side — lofted and along the ground — were an absolute treat. He upped the ante after a moderate start and kept getting better. The range of strokes he produced was incredible.

Feel bad for these bowlers

Spare a thought for Gujarat Titans bowlers like Noor Ahmad and Mohit Sharma. Noor, the Afghan left-arm unorthodox spinner, was incredible. He got the Chennai openers with deliveries that spun different ways. This was skill of the highest order under pressure. Mohit, too, was on the money. Just that he bowled a few balls which went for runs that proved vital in the end. Entrusted with the job of a finisher with the ball, he almost pulled it off before Jadeja changed the plot. This was a superb effort by these two, who were outstanding throughout the season. A bit of sympathy, because they ended up on the losing side.

The Rashid flop show

Rashid Khan being taken apart was a huge factor. He usually does not go for 44 runs in three overs. Even on his bad days, he takes wickets. This was a totally different day. Rahane attacked him, so did Dube and this Afghan superstar was not himself. He is a fighter, and Gujarat expected him to stage a comeback which never happened. The main bowler going for so many without taking a wicket was a titanic setback for his team in the big match. Being one of the most successful bowlers of the season will be scant consolation for him. On the day his team relied on him to deliver, he failed. This is one of the biggest reasons why Gujarat failed to defend what seemed to be a defendable total.

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