JOHANNESBURG: For the second year in a row, the Indian Premier League was won by a team that had a fairytale run to the title.
If it was Team Jaipur that went from underdogs to champs last year, this time it was the turn of a squad that could do nothing right last year, Team Hyderabad, to pull off an amazing turnaround.
Hyderabad rose from rock bottom, shaken and stirred, to pull off a sensational victory in the final here at the Wanderers, thus adding another chapter to the sweet irony of last-year’s wooden spoon holders.
If 2008’s number seven and eight teams were destined to make the final, it was perhaps only apt that the number eight won the title. Knight Riders may well derive some hope for next year.
The IPL ended in spectacular fashion as one IT city barely held off the other in a match that went down to the wire. Defending a mere 143 runs, Adam Gilchrist’s men provided the much needed spark to swing their side’s fortunes in an exceptional manner.
Some electric fieldwork by Andrew Symonds, Rohit Sharma and Herschelle Gibbs, excellent left-arm spin from Pragyan Ojha and aggressive captaincy by Gilchrist worked wonders.
Gilchrist’s hurricane innings in the semifinal had single-handedly given his team a ticket to the final. But it burdened his team with the expectation of a repeat performance.
It seemed as if the third ball of Hyderabad’s innings had decided the fate of the final when Gilchrist was clean bowled by Anil Kumble, trying to come down the track and missing the line.
Kumble deserves a mention despite his team losing. He reserved his best for the all-important clash, but even his superb spell of 4-16 could not see his squad through.
The IPL final on Sunday yet again showed the virtue of someone staying put and anchoring the innings. After Adam Gilchrist left, scoring runs became tough hell for a seemingly mentally-subdued side.
Herschelle Gibbs, normally flamboyant, batted through the innings, keeping one end intact. But there was no acceleration forthcoming from the other end. Andrew Symonds
briefly flourished, but Anil Kumble cut his innings short. Rohit Sharma too did his bit, but Hyderabad's 143/6 seemed barely adequate.
The Challengers began their chase well. with Jacques Kallis providing a stable start, Roelof van der Merwe's run-rate boost adding meat to the effort and Ross Taylor indulging in some sensible strokeplay.
However, to hold your temperament in a crunch situation, inside the Bullring, with a frenzied atmosphere adding to the tension, can never be easy.
For the fielding side, 11 players getting into a huddle every other moment is a way to derive confidence. For two batsmen out in the middle left to fend for themselves, watching the run-rate increase with every ball can be horrifying. That's precisely what was happening to the Challengers as the chase began to lose its way.
143 from 120 balls came down to 100 from 82, 65 from 48 and the sequence remained in that order till the end. There was always the need to surge but a vigilant Hyderabad, also a bit lucky, never provided the chance.
Two stumpings by Gilchrist, the second one a stunner, along with excellent spells from Ojha and Symonds sealed Challengers' fate.