Image Courtesy: IPL/BCCI
The first qualifier between Chennai Super Kings and Sunrisers Hyderabad was one roller coaster of a ride and had the fans skipping many a beat.
CSK prevailed in the end to enter the IPL final for the umpteenth time.
A look at the ten talking points of the match…
1. CSK had the psychological advantage
In all of IPL, CSK have won a good 6/8 of their matches with SRH. They won both their encounters in this season. You could well say that SRH has a psychological disadvantage against CSK. It is now becoming a full-fledged jinx and SRH will have to totally think out of the box when they meet CSK next.
If you take out CSK, then SRH have won 9/12 matches in IPL 2018, but lost 3/3 with CSK.
2. SRH’s predictable batting collapse
In IPL 2018, SRH have heavily relied on their bowlers and defended low totals. So predictably in a crunch match, their batting order let them down again.
Shikhar Dhawan was out in a first-ball stunner and from there on they never looked to get a score in the region of 160-180.
Kane Williamson, Manish Pandey, Shakib Al Hasan and Yusuf Pathan all fell cheaply and at times one wonders how SRH topped the table with so many batting collapses throughout the tournament and reached here by their bowlers alone.
3. Bravo’s stunning catch
Another below-par feature of SRH has been their fielding and they have far less spectacular catches when compared to CSK. One standout player is Dwayne Bravo, who is a revelation when it comes to caught and bowled.
The way Dhoni’s last winning shot is a trademark, so is Bravo tumbling forward to field his own bowling. The way Bravo took out danger man Yusuf Pathan off his own bowling at the end of the fifteenth over was a revelation.
While SRH relies on their bowling, when it comes to CSK, the batting, bowling and fielding—anything could deliver the goods for them. In fact Lungi Ngidi’s caught and bowled off Shreevats Goswami was almost as good.
4. The one over that turned it around for SRH
At the end of the 19th over, SRH was 119/6 and had no hopes of putting up a competitive total for CSK. SRH may have well ended up in the 120s. However in the middle of the over we had: 6,4,wide,6 and that opened the match wide open.
Suddenly the target became 140! To chase 7 runs per over from the beginning is at least competitive if not formidable. And knowing the way SRH bowling has been firing repeatedly, they were expected to make a meal of it.
5. 2/2 seemed to do the trick for SRH
If SRH was 0/1 after a ball, CSK was 0/1 after 5 balls! But Suresh Raina hit three fours ofF the first three balls of the next over and one thought that CSK would soon be out of the woods.
Then Siddharth Kaul dismissed Raina and top CSK batsman Ambati Rayudu off successive deliveries and MS Dhoni survived the hat-trick ball.
After that CSK wickets started falling quickly much like SRH and they were 113-8 at one stage. From there on one must say that it was SRH’s game to lose!
6. Faf carries his bat!
It is very rare for an opener to carry his bat in a T20 match and even rarer for a century not to be scored. But Faf du Plessis played a totally different kind of innings and watched helplessly as wickets fell at the other end.
But Faf kept his wicket in hand and went berserk towards the end. Du Plessis scored 19 runs in the 18th over and that set it up nicely. His 42-ball 67 rightly got him the man-of-the match award. One commentator marvelled at how he channelled his “inner Dhoni” and clinched the IPL final with a six.
7. Thakur redeems himself at the death
If the match was a roller coaster, then Shardul Thakur symbolized it perfectly. He got a wicket in his very second ball and that too against the dangerman and SRH captain Kane Williamson. However he got blasted after that.
He got hit for two sixes in the 18th over and still Dhoni handed him the last over which went for 20 runs and brought SRH back into the game.
However, Thakur got redemption when he hit three fours in the 19th over and ended up with an unbeaten 15 off 5.
8. Dhoni prevails over Williamson in the end
It wasn’t just CSK versus SRH but Dhoni versus Williamson and the old versus the old and experience prevailed in the end.
While Williamson is a new captain, Dhoni just entered his 8th IPL final! (7 for CSK and 1 for Pune Super Giant)
Dhoni was in control for 19 overs and one wayward over at the end still meant a low total to chase. However at 113/8 you must have thought that Williamson had it in the bag, but he couldn’t get his bowlers and fielders to go in for the kill.
9. Williamson gets the Orange Cap
SRH captain Williamson has the Orange Cap, though he must have preferred a berth in the final instead. Williamson has now scored 685 runs at an average of 57.
Rishabh Pant of Delhi Daredevils stands at 684 and KL Rahul of Kings XI Punjab at 659.
However both these teams are out of the tournament so Williamson is the front-runner for the Orange Cap at the end. Rayudu at 586 and Rajasthan Royal's Jos Buttler at 548 could still theoretically overtake him.
10. Still could be a CSK SRH final!
Despite everything, you would still put SRH favourites to enter the final. That’s because only CSK has been their bogey. While SRH won both their matches against RR, they beat KKR in the first match and lost in the second when there was no pressure and had already qualified.
However if it’s an SRH versus CSK final, then Williamson, as mentioned at the beginning of this article, will have to do something really different, otherwise CSK will simply run away with the title!
Also by the author this IPL season:
Thala Dhoni roars his 2019 intent in style
Surprising but successful moves & misses of IPL 2018
IPL Snippets: The battle of the spouses
IPL Winners: Is it all about the power of owners?
IPL Snippets: Thala Dhoni - Injured, old, but fighting fit!
Who will be the greatest ever IPL captain after 2018
IPL Snippets: Will this 'ring' help Virat Kohli break title duck?
The author is a Bangalore-based journalist and blogger. He blogs here