Not all misses are costly, especially for Chennai Super Kings. But if such glaring errors are committed in the final of a tournament, there is every possibility of being doomed. Kolkata Knight Riders found that out at the Dubai International Stadium on Friday. Cashing in after Dinesh Karthik failed to stump him when he was only on 2, Faf du Plessis smashed his way to a brilliant 86 to lay the foundation for Chennai Super Kings’ fourth IPL crown, as they thumped the Knight Riders by 27 runs in the summit clash of this edition.
Captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who will now be getting ready for his role as Team India mentor in the upcoming T20 World Cup, couldn’t have asked for a better result in his 300th T20 appearance as captain, being the first to achieve such a feat. Last Sunday, against Delhi Capitals in Qualifier I, the 40-year-old Dhoni played a cameo that was crucial in earning the Super Kings a final berth. And in the all-important final, Du Plessis, 37, delivered what certainly was a title-winning knock for the Super Kings, who proved they are actually an army of legends. And legends can never be written off, no matter how old they are.
Thanks to Du Plessis, the Super Kings posted 192/3, a formidable enough total. And for the Knight Riders to chase it down, they needed something special from their in-form openers. Thanks to dropped catches and a bit of fortune, the in-form Shubman Gill and Venkatesh Iyer tried to make a match of it. But once Shardul Thakur (3/38) dismissed both Iyer and Nitish Rana in a span of three balls in the 11th overs of their run chase, the Knights’ batting simply crumbled under pressure.
As if the middle order’s struggle and captain Eoin Morgan’s wretched form with the bat weren’t enough, Rahul Tripathi’s hamstring injury hamstrung the Knights further as all they could manage in the end was 165/9. Once the Shubman-Iyer pair was separated, the likes of Ravindra Jadeja (2/37) and Josh Hazlewood (2/29) had no problems in adding to their tally of wickets.
Going back to Du Plessis, he started slowly with Ruturaj Gaikwad doing the bulk of the scoring after the Super Kings were put in to bat. But soon after that let-off, the former South Africa captain ensured he was at his vintage best. The high back-lift being a characteristic of his batting, it certainly helped Du Plessis unleash those aerial strokes, particularly off Lockie Ferguson. New Zealand quick had a torrid time with the ball in the game that mattered most, going for 56 off his four overs.
Besides, on a pitch that was far better for stroke-making, Du Plessis adjusted his game accordingly against the Knight Riders spinners. There were no half measures if the ball was in his arc and strike rotation was a cakewalk for him, which also made acceleration easier for Robin Uthappa and Moeen Ali. His rollicking 60-plus stands with Uthappa and Moeen were certainly crucial elements of the decider.
Du Plessis’ fluency and dominance almost led him to take the Orange Cap (reserved for the tournament’s highest run-getter) away from teammate Ruturaj, who had overtaken KL Rahul earlier in the game. This quality knock might as well make the Proteas realize the mistake they made by not picking him for their T20 Cup squad.
Spin was KKR’s strength. But barring Sunil Narine (2/26), Varun Chakravarthy and Shakib-al Hasan struggled in finding the right length. It seemed as if they were mentally still at Sharjah, where sluggishness of pitches made strokeplay tougher. Of course, one can argue Shakib’s figures could have been better if not for the reprieve Du Plessis got, but even then he offered the opposition batters the room they were looking for. The same goes for Chakravarthy. Had it not been for a little bit of guile that was on offer from Narine, the margin of defeat would surely have been bigger for the Knights.