The match was a perfect testing ground. It was about two Aussie greats one the master of batting & the other a legend spin bowler. It was how a disciplined Aussie leads an Indian team to victory. The pitch was unfriendly with a bit of grass on it. It claimed 20 wickets allowing only 320 runs to be scored. Both the captains showed some brilliant captaincy. The game was rife with Aussie attitude & Indian talent. Both the captains had average teams to lead. And they did it with panache. At last the better man triumphed.
Before the match there was speculation that Adam Gilchrist might not play due to some injury but at the last moment he joined with the team. While Warne was quite sure of winning in all conditions. I am still wondering that what is Ricky Pointing thinking right now.
This was the first time when an IPL match was played at Nagpur VCA stadium. As Warne had said about the pitch that it good with a wee bit of grass on it. It should be a batsman’s pitch. However that was the last thing that the pitch was thinking. The pitch was new so there was an even bounce but often the ball skidded on contact and lifted high. There were only two clean bowled, rest everyone fell pray to catch or run out. Each catch was better than the last. The pitch suited the liking of Rohit Sharma but nobody else. Rohit made good use of the pitch as he notched up around 80.
The match was interesting from the first ball itself. When Harris fumbled with a catch. The batsman had almost reached the dugout when he was called back by the umpire. That was an omen for the matched to be followed. What followed seemed like a bad play by the Royals. They started losing wickets quickly & consistently. Since most of the batsmen were caught it did not matter how well the pitch was acting for them. Lumb was caught by Harris on the boundary in the 3rd over, Ojha too went down in the same over. Even the run rate was below the IPL standard. It was less than 8 runs/over. By the 5th over Royals were 39-2. They reached 100 in the 12th over when Watson & Fazal were just anchoring the innings. But fate had something else for them. In another 10 balls they made 130 at the loss of 3 wickets. By the 17th over Royals stood at 136-7. The Chargers were turning aggressive by the ball. They cleaned the Royals 159 with a ball to spare. The Royals’ wickets were falling so fast that it seemed that they were here to loose.
Despite Royals having a good middle order they could not perform well. While Raut went for a duck, Yusuf Pathan went cheap at 5 runs. Jhunjunwala too could only manage 11 runs. Warne himself could not reach the crease on time. Shane Watson fresh from New Zealand lived up too 58 off 36.
Now a target of 160 isn’t much by T20 standards. So one must have thought that the Royals had lost it. All but Warne thought that. And it is always the thinking of Warne that changed the game. Besides, the Royals have never lost a defending target of 150 above. When the great Gilly came up to bat he came with the air of finishing the game by the 15th over. But the game only began in the 15th over. Not much was done by Gilly or anyone else from Chargers save Rohit Sharma. Rohit Sharma took the hopes of the Chargers of winning the match right till the end. And then fell short. Symonds couldn’t do much damage either. Every 5 overs their run rate was more or less as the same as that of Royals.
It was the last few overs when Warne & Co. went under hell & high water to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. For the Chargers boundaries only came with long shots a couple of sixes were also shot. Slowly they were inching to glory. When calamity stuck. The Royals were just not giving up. Each boy was lumping at the ball like cheetahs while Warne was addressing the team ball by ball. Warne himself came out like his former self and took 4 wickets that boosted the chances of the Royals. His field placement came out to be pin point correct. He bowled knowing that the ball will be lifted by the batsman towards such-&-such fielder. A true genius of a spinner. For the last over he gave the ball to a Trivedi and guided him ball by ball. Then came a catch then came a super catch & then there was a run out on an overthrow midfield again a catch later the scores were settled. This was the cherry on the cake. Harmeet & Rohit were on crease when the overthrow midfield happened. Rohit ran back to the strike & Harmeet in true Lagaan style ran to the runners end sacrificing his wicket so that Rohit could keep the strike. (During the confusion I was laughing away to glory). The Royals finished their innings with one ball to spare so did the Chargers.
In the end we saw how two great Aussies went head to head against each other with local Indian boys giving them their utmost support. There was a masterpiece of captaincy displayed by Warne. He kept his channels open & encouraged the bowlers to do their stuff albeit with a few suggestions from himself. Until the last ball had dropped from the air the Royals were concentrating a 100%. Warne managed to work his team of no stars as a unit & achieve glory. It was none of Gilly’s fault. He was great for his team, but then the Winner can only be one.
In the words of Shilpa Shetty : The Royals showed their signature character.