Navi Mumbai:Yusuf Pathan's phenomenal all-round act helped Rajasthan Royals win the Indian Premier League 2008 in a thrilling last-ball finish against Chennai Super Kings.
After an absorbing 44-day period, the outcome of the tournament was fittingly decided off the last possible ball, as Rajasthan chased 164. You couldn't chose between two teams in a last-ball finish. MS Dhoni had had a phenomenal run in these last over finishes but his luck ran out on Sunday night at Navi Mumbai's DY Patil Stadium.
Highlights: Royals vs Super Kings
With one run needed off the last ball, on strike was Sohail Tanvir, Rajasthan's best bowler in the IPL, and his captain Shane Warne. Laxmipathy Balaji had the ball; he banged it in and Tanvir pulled it past mid-on for four. The Royals, who were everyone's underdogs in the beginning, won by three wickets to wrap up a remarkable campaign.
Yusuf Pathan the hero
In what must be one of the finest all-round performances in recent times, Pathan turned the match on its head twice --- first with the ball, then with the bat.
Chennai were off to an assuring start. Parthiv Patel and S. Vidyut added 39 for the first wicket when Pathan struck. In fact, he went on to take the first three wickets, bowling his stump-to-stump spin.
Then, with Rajasthan under the burner at 42-3 Pathan struck a characteristically brutal 56 (39 balls, 3 fours, 4 sixes) to bring his team at the doorsteps of a famous win. When Yusuf was run out by a blinding direct hit from point by Suresh Raina, the Royals needed 21 from 14 balls.
The Kapil Dev moment
A pivotal moment in the game was the introduction of Muttiah Muralitharan in the 11th over. Pathan was in unfamiliar territory, having to defend more than attack. But he tried to break free against Murali and mistimed his loft. The ball hung in the air and Raina ran back from midwicket to long on. He got to the ball, cupped it, let it slip, caught it again, and finally dropped it.
Twenty-five years ago, Kapil Dev had memorably hung on to a similar catch to turn another final on its head. After Raina's miss, Pathan went into overdrive and that, in the end, was the difference between the two sides.
After benefitting from that drop, Yusuf had two other chances --- both equally difficult. On 33, Manpreet Gony couldn't close his hands on a catch that came to him on his follow through. Later in the innings, Balaji dropped a similar catch off his bowling.
Usual suspects star again
Many contested Warne's decision to bat second in a big game. But Warne stuck to his instincts which had worked rather well in the tournament. At 42-3 it seemed Warne had blundered when it really mattered.
Here, Shane Watson joined Pathan to put the innings back on track. Watson made 28 (19 balls, 3x4) but more importantly, he added 65 precious runs with Pathan, who had begun dealing in big sixes at the other end.
Watson was yorked by Muralitharan going out for a big hit. Mohammad Kaif, who has had a very ordinary series, made 12 in quick time before Murali defeated him with a doosra. Next ball, Ravindra Jadeja played a horrendous pull than lobbed to mid on, and three balls later, Raina beat Pathan with the direct hit. It left the Royals in a wobbly spot all over again.
Captain Cool prevails in tense finish
Tanvir joined his skipper Warne with 18 needed from 12 balls. Dhoni, normally everyone's Captain Cool, perhaps erred when he called Makhaya Ntini to bowl the penultimate over. It left Dhoni just Balaji --- his most expensive bowler on the night --- to bowl the last over. After Ntini conceded 6 from his first 5 balls, Warne managed to sneak a four past cover and wrest the advantage.
With eight needed from the last six, Balaji managed to hold his line and bring the equation down to six runs from three balls. He then bowled a wide and the batsmen scrambled a bye to bring it down to four from three. A single to Warne followed, followed by a clip to square leg for two to Tanvir. One needed from one and Tanvir coolly slapped a short ball past mid on.
A struggle for Chennai
Chennai were not spectacular with the bat, but they worked hard to get 163-5 runs on the board. The going wasn't easy --- Chennai managed just nine fours, to go with seven sixes --- and relied heavily on good running to reach their score.
After an enterprising start by their openers Patel (38) and Vidyut (16), Chennai lost their way a bit against the off-spin of Yusuf Pathan who took 3-22, his best figures in the IPL.
Raina provided the pulp to the innings with his 43 from 30 balls and left the stage to his skipper to provide the finishing touches. Dhoni made 29 (17 balls).
Chennai must rue their finish. They made just 46 runs in the last five overs when they had six wickets in the dugout. But Shane Watson and Sohail Tanvir were not easy to get away. The two mixed their full tosses, bouncers, slow balls and yorkers to keep Chennai's batsmen guessing.
Pathan walked away with the man of the match in the final game while Watson is the man of the series. Tanvir, for his 22 wickets, won the purple cap.
The orange cap for the highest scorer went to Shaun Marsh of Kings XI Punjab.
Warne's side received a cheque of USD 1.2 million, while the runners-up Chennai got half that amount.