Super Kings' Chennai chemistry

The RCB batsman who mattered, Chris Gayle, is caught behind by Dhoni in the very first over and CSK heaves a huge sigh of relief.-K. PICHUMANI

The batsmen and the bowlers pulled their weight and with the MAC Stadium proving to be talismanic, Chennai Super Kings retained its IPL crown. Over to Kunal Diwan.

The concept of consistency as an imaginary notion in Twenty20 cricket is being greatly challenged by Chennai Super Kings, whose continuing success in the Indian Premier League is a direct infringement of the fickle nature of the shortest format.

Super Kings defended its crown after a one-sided contest against Royal Challengers Bangalore at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium, after having posted a record total in the final and being helped no end by a record opening partnership between M. Vijay (95) and Michael Hussey (63).

Once M.S. Dhoni elected to bat and saw his men clobber their way to 205, all that stood between Super Kings and a second IPL crown was the orange-cap winner, Chris Gayle.

But Gayle's departure in the first over signalled that Bangalore's chase, despite the presence of heavyweights such as Virat Kohli and A.B. de Villiers, went nowhere, ending 58 runs short of Chennai's total in what was the most one-sided of all IPL finals.

The win was Super Kings's eighth in eight homes matches this season and followed the set pattern of Chepauk victories set up by batting first, exploiting the slow turn of the wicket to throttle the opposition, and waiting for the scoring rate to spiral beyond redress and into a series of low-percentage shots.

Royal Challengers had beaten Mumbai Indians in the second qualifier at Chepauk a day before the final. Instead of cribbing about having to play on successive days in the heat, Royal Challengers skipper Danny Vettori was gladdened at the opportunity to test out the disreputable pitch a day before the title clash. But once the coin flipped Dhoni's way on the big night, there was little that the New Zealander, or Bangalore's allegedly balanced bowling attack, could have done.

Vijay and Hussey took Super Kings to 56 for no loss in the first six overs, and built so emphatically on the start that despite a flurry of wickets towards the end, Super Kings reached a 200-plus total without trouble. Vijay was dismissed five short of what would have been his second IPL century, but later said that his main intention was to get Chennai somewhere in the vicinity of 220, considering the dangerous presence of Chris Gayle in the Bangalore line-up.

With such an imposing target looming, Bangalore appeared jaded even before it began its pursuit, and one over into the chase, all hopes of a competitive final were extinguished.

Murali Vijay and Mike Hussey really bludgeoned RCB.-V. GANESAN

Gayle, who almost single-handedly turned Bangalore's fortunes around after joining the team late, failed to fire. Facing off to R. Ashwin in the first over, the Caribbean left-hander was a victim of the off-spinner's trademark bounce, his attempted cut being pouched safely behind the stumps by Dhoni. In his next over Ashwin took out Mayank Agarwal with a carom ball. It was always going to be uphill from here on for Bangalore, and regular wickets by Chennai's slower men didn't allow the chase to assume an alarming pace even once.

As long as Virat Kohli (32) and Saurabh Tiwary (42 not out) hung around, there still remained a faint hope for the visiting side, but Ashwin and Shadab Jakati gave nothing away to the batsmen, further intensifying the pressure of a huge run chase. Soon, half the Bangalore side was back in the pavilion with just 69 on the board, and by now the sea of yellow in the stands was ready to erupt in celebration. It soon did, watching Chennai Super Kings claim its second IPL title from three final and four semifinal appearances, a record that will take some surpassing.

Ashwin picked up 20 wickets in the tournament at an economy rate of 6.15 and was instrumental in Chennai finishing with a perfect home record in 2011. The Super Kings — openers Hussey (492) and Vijay (434), middle order bats Suresh Raina (438), S. Badrinath (396) and Dhoni (392) — all had a good tournament. The bowlers — left-arm fast bowler Doug Bollinger (17 wickets), Albie Morkel (13), Ashwin (20) and Jakati (10) — set up several wins in hopeless situations.

“It was a team effort,” said Vijay later, “I knew I was getting out after decent starts, so I wanted to make it count in the final.”

THE SCORES

Chennai Super Kings: M. Hussey c Mithun b Mohammad 63; M. Vijay c Vettori b Aravind 95; M. S. Dhoni c Kohli b Aravind 22; S. Raina b Gayle 8; A. Morkel c Kohli b Gayle 2; S. Badrinath (not out) 0; D. Bravo (not out) 6; Extras (lb-7, w-2): 9; Total (for five wkts. in 20 overs) 205.

Fall of wickets: 1-159, 2-188, 3-188, 4-199, 5-199.

Royal Challengers Bangalore bowling: Zaheer 4-0-30-0; Aravind 3-0-39-2; Gayle 4-0-34-2; Syed Mohammad 3-0-39-1; Vettori 4-0-34-0; Mithun 2-0-22-0.

Royal Challengers Bangalore: M. Agarwal b Ashwin 10; C. Gayle c Dhoni b Ashwin 0; V. Kohli lbw Raina 35; A.B. de Villiers lbw b Jakati 18; L. Pomersbach c & b Jakati 2; S. Tiwary (not out) 42; D. Vettori c & b Ashwin 0; A. Mithun c Bollinger b Bravo 11; Zaheer Khan c Hussey b Bollinger 21; S. Mohammad (not out) 2; Extras (b-2, lb-2, w-1, nb-1): 6; Total (for eight wkts. in 20 overs) 147.

Fall of wickets: 1-1, 2-16, 3-48, 4-62, 5-69, 6-70, 7-92, 8-130.

Chennai Super Kings bowling: Ashwin 4-0-16-3; Morkel 3-0-24-0; Bollinger 3-0-28-1; Jakati 4-0-21-2; Raina 4-0-39-1; Bravo 2-0-15-1.