“After our poor start in the IPL, nobody gave us a chance to make it to the final. To then win nine matches in a row is special. This victory has been very satisfying,” says the Kolkata Knight Riders skipper, Gautam Gambhir. By Ashwin Achal.

The promise of an imminent miracle reverberated through the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium during Kolkata Knight Riders’ run chase against Kings XI Punjab in the IPL final. Chasing 200, Kolkata moved to 73 for two after eight overs, with Yusuf Pathan and Manish Pandey at the crease. It was early days for both batsmen, but the hint of something special to come was already there in the air.

Panning out like a Shah Rukh movie!  

Two flat-batted straight sixes from Pathan followed soon, in the ninth over, bowled by leg-spinner Karanveer Singh, and the excitement heightened. And in the 12th over, Kolkata had its share of luck, when Pandey, batting on a fluent 60, got a leading edge off Akshar Patel, and the ball ballooned to skipper George Bailey at cover. Bailey, a terrific fielder, rushed in a tad early, and had to quickly backtrack to get under the ball. A palm here, a bobble there — but the catch was dropped.

Pathan (36, 22Balls), however, fell a few overs later. His wicket was immediately followed by that of Shakib al-Hasan, but that only seemed to spur Pandey. As if to prove, that the two dismissals meant little in the context of the match, the Karnataka batsman went on the offensive, almost immediately. Pandey eventually fell for 94 (50b, 7x4, 6x6), and it was left to Piyush Chawla to see his team through. Chawla faced Mitchell Johnson, perhaps the fastest bowler in world cricket now, and the mind recalled a sight from the eve of the match. Batting in the nets, Chawla was bounced by a local quick.

An angry Chawla shot his mouth off at the frightened pacer and had him removed from the attack. Chawla was then fed a delicious course of over-pitched looseners by the other bowlers. As these thoughts streamed through, a glorious scene unravelled on the field. Johnson fired a short ball at Chawla, who rocked back and confidently pulled it over square-leg for six.

Robin and batsman  

The 24-year-old had treated the intimidating Johnson with the same disdain shown to the net bowler, only this time it was the bat doing the talking. This proved to be a vital moment, as it brought the equation down to five runs needed off the last over. A sliced boundary off a low full toss in the final over sealed the title, and a rapturous Chawla set out on a sprint like a man possessed.

“When we entered the dressing room at the break, we felt that 200 could be chased. Given the small stadium and the wicket here, we knew it was possible,” Gambhir stated after the match. “After our poor start in the IPL, nobody gave us a chance to make it to the final. To then win nine matches in a row is special. This victory has been very satisfying.” The southpaw added that the inclusion of Pandey in the team was a calculated gamble, which clearly paid off. “When we picked Pandey in the auction, we knew that he was the kind of guy who needed our trust. He did not perform well in the previous few matches, but his place in the eleven was never in doubt. It was a terrific knock under pressure,” Gambhir said.

Earlier, Punjab’s wicketkeeper-batsmen Wriddhiman Saha justified his promotion in the batting order, ahead of Glenn Maxwell and David Miller, with an unbeaten 115 (55b, 10x4, 8x6). The first and only centurion in an IPL final will unfortunately remain just a footnote in the clash — a frugal reward for a tremendous effort. For now though, the spotlight shines solely on Kolkata Knight Riders, the chosen one.