MI and DC met at the Dubai International cricket stadium with a place in the final on the line. The battle promised to be delicious since MI has been the best team in the tournament and DC seems to have found their ideal batting lineup in the last game. Removing Shimron Hetmeyer and bringing Rahane into the mix gave DC much more solidity in terms of hitting. What that also meant was that they could play Daniel Sams to annoy batsmen with some swing in the opening overs.
DC won the toss and chose to play at a dream batting green in Dubai. MI welcomed back all their bowling superstars after their debacle in their last league match against SRH. With good reason, Rohit Sharma pointed out in the draw that it is a fresh game and that they are not looking to take the hangover from their last league game.
Shreyas Iyer’s men started the game with a bang. There are reasons why great players perform in great games. Rather than wither under pressure, they rise to the occasion and up their game at critical moments to win the battle. Ashwin, as a cue ball bowler, has been neglected time and time again after the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy. He said in the last match that it feels refreshing to see Ashwin get back to doing what he does best. Personally, I felt that he tried too many things in the last two years, including leg spin bowling, but this year he has come out in the right frame of mind.
He represented Rohit Sharma in the 2North Dakota late in the match, opening the game fully for Delhi Capitals. QDK and Surya took charge of the situation from now on. Incredible hitting from the duo resulted in MI picking up DC’s momentum, after Rohit’s initial firing. Rabada and Nortje were taken to the cleaners, with absolutely no swing on offer and Mumbai ran to a comfortable 64-1 on the power play.
The biggest change that has occurred for Surya this year has been his ability to milk singles in the midst of the big boys. He has always been a person who was very capable of clearing the leg side boundary with his sweeps, slow sweeps and jerks, but the fact that he was unable to hit singles with good deliveries created undue pressure on him. This year, he’s hitting those big six and picking up singles from the remaining deliveries to make it an 11-12 outrage. Another big improvement in his hitting is that he is much more upright while playing shots. Previously, he used to crouch while playing with his legs, which closed his offside game quite a bit. The upright stance helps him open up the offside and play coverage shots and square shots to good effect.
QDK and Surya led MI to 78 in 7 overs, before both went down in quick succession. Once again, Ashwin struck with a spinning spin to dismiss the South African which caused a mini-collapse in the IM middle order. Ashwin showed his mettle in the high pressure match as MI lost 3 wickets for 25 runs to fall to 101-4. Due credit to Ashwin for bringing DC back into the match as he accounted for 2 of those 3 wickets – the slump included the sacking of the intimidating Kieron Pollard. Ashwin finished 3 for 29 from his 4 overs, handing the lead to DC in the middle overs.
MI is 4 times IPL champion not because they have Rohit, Pollard or Bumrah in the lineup. It’s because, even after taking out those big names, you have a team that can take down most other franchises in the tournament. The biggest USP of the team is that they never really look to consolidate, they look to counterattack even from weak spots. That is exactly what Ishan Kishan and Hardik Pandya did today.
At 140-5, Pandya-Kishan was the last recognized batting pair for MI. However, instead of worrying about it, they backed up their force and engaged Rabada and Nortje. Ishan Kishan continued his dream form to run into another half century and India’s own version of Andre Russell, Hardik Pandya, scored a blitzkrieg of 37 in 14 delivery. The most notable part of their partnership was that they aimed for the V between the deep cover and the deep medium wicket. Neither Ishan nor Hardik attempted to spin fine leg or third man and majestically put together a partnership that turned the 29-ball 60 match around to take MI to the 200-run mark.
The first round of the Delhi chase brought back memories of the 2013 IPL final. Mike Hussey was the orange cap holder that season with 733 runs. Suresh Raina also had an excellent season with 548 runs in the tournament. MI was the loser who reached the final, facing a clinical CSK. MI set a sub-par target of 146 for CSK and halfway there it looked like CSK would be on track for the 3rd IPL Title. Malinga started strong though, taking out both Hussey and Raina in the first on herself. The shakeup was so significant that CSK was unable to recover from it for the entire inning and lost the final by 18 runs, despite MS Dhoni fighting 63.
Tonight, Boult was like Malinga 2.0. Boult came on and induced an edge from Prithvi Shaw with a delivery that went with the angle of the left-handed arm. A couple of balls later, his shot came in from the same spot to catch Rahane in shape off his stump. Before DC could even begin the chase, the game was over in a heartbeat. A double wicket maiden in the first over of a 200+ chase is more than a dream start for the outfield team.
If there was any doubt the match was not over, Bumrah shattered Shikhar Dhawan’s stumps with a smashing yorker to dismiss DC’s third batsman in the next over. Just FYI my readers, MI had yet to concede a single race and they had already written out the top 3 from DC.
From then on, the consequence of the match was a mere formality. Stonis played a good hand of 65, but at no point in the chase did Delhi appear to be in the game. Iyer and Pant continued their horrible form and Delhi succumbed to an embarrassing 57-run defeat. The margin could have been much higher had it not been for Stoinis and Axar Patel who saved their team from ruin.
MI has been the best team in the tournament by far and they deserve first place in the final. Will they face an underconfident DC? Or will it be one of SRH and RCB? We have to wait to know it …