Chennai Super Kings beat Sunrisers Hyderabad to win Indian Premier League on their return from suspension

Set an imposing 179 to win the trophy for a third time, they cruised home with eight wickets and nine balls to spare, thanks in no small part to Shane Watson

Dileep Premachandran
Sunday 27 May 2018 20:33
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Chennai Super Kings celebrate winning the IPL
Chennai Super Kings celebrate winning the IPL

Back in Australian cricket’s glory years, Matthew Hayden and other teammates used to tease Shane Watson by calling him Manpower, after the male-stripper troupe. Watson turns 37 in a few weeks and retired from international cricket nearly three years ago, but his magnificent Hammer-of-Thor hundred was the difference as Chennai Super Kings romped to victory in the Indian Premier League (IPL) final against Sunrisers Hyderabad.

Set an imposing 179 to win the trophy for a third time, they cruised home with eight wickets and nine balls to spare. Watson smashed eight sixes and 11 fours in his 57-ball 117, adding a second winner’s medal to accompany the one he won with Rajasthan Royals in the inaugural season (2008).

That Chennai won with such ease was all the more remarkable given that they made just 20 in the first five overs, losing Faf du Plessis in the process. After that calm, the Watson hitting storm blew Hyderabad away, as he matched the 51-ball century he made earlier in the season. With Suresh Raina, now a three-time champion with Chennai, turning the strike over, the two added 117 in just 57 balls to effectively end the contest.

The last time Chennai won the big prize, in 2011, Barack Obama was in his first term in the Oval Office, Pep Guardiola was creating a European dynasty with Barcelona, and Rory McIllroy was about to win a record-breaking first major at the US Open in Bethesda.

It’s a very different world now. Obama has just signed a deal with Netflix, Real Madrid long ago knocked Barcelona off their European perch and McIllroy hasn’t won a major in four years. But MS Dhoni, who added a third title in his eighth final, Raina and Dwayne Bravo continue to be lynchpins of a Chennai side that was heavily criticised after the January auction for focusing almost exclusively on experienced players.

One of the few youngsters they invested in was also to the fore. South Africa’s Lungi Ngidi, who had flown home earlier in the season after his father passed away, finished with 11 wickets in the seven games he played, at an outstanding economy rate of 6. His fourth-over maiden enabled Chennai to control the early stages of the match after Dhoni had won the toss and put Hyderabad in.

That Hyderabad finished with 178 was primarily because of another veteran who had been Watson’s teammate at Rajasthan in that first season. Ten years ago, Yusuf Pathan was the man of the match with a 39-ball 56 as Chennai suffered a last-ball defeat against Shane Warne’s side. On Sunday night, he clubbed 45 from 25 balls, with Shakib Al Hasan (23 off 15) and Carlos Brathwaite (21 off 11) providing the support for a late surge.

Kane Williamson’s 36-ball 47 provided the base for Yusuf’s cameo, as he took his season aggregate to 735. Only Virat Kohli (973) and David Warner (848) – both in 2016 – have scored more in an IPL season. But Williamson, who led brilliantly after replacing the suspended David Warner, was powerless to stop the Chennai surge as the competition’s best bowling attack had a collective stinker.

Apart from the excellent Bhuvneshwar Kumar (0-17) and Rashid Khan (0-25), none of the Hyderabad bowlers had any answer to Watson’s power once he found his hitting range. Sandeep Sharma, whose first two overs cost just ten, went for 15 and 27 in his next two, while Siddharth Kaul, whose early-season form had earned an India call-up, was carted for 43 from three overs.

After two years in exile for the involvement of senior management figures in the 2013 spot-fixing scandal, Chennai’s return this season was eagerly anticipated. But political protests in Chennai forced them to shift their home games to Pune after just one match, much to the dismay of a huge fan base.

Those supporters were out in force in the stands at the Wankhede Stadiums, as they had been all season. The franchise arranged special trains for the fans, and thousands travelled far from home so that the Whistle-podu [blow the whistle] anthem could be heard at every venue. At the home of their rivals, the Mumbai Indians, Watson gave them a night they’ll never forget.

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