League or knock-out there was only one champion. It was fitting that the most consistent side in the tournament held their nerve to clinch a thriller. The Chennai Super Kings summoned every ounce of their reserves to take the match till the last ball but a calm swat from Sohail Tanvir, when one was needed off the last ball, sparked some heady celebrations in the Rajasthan Royals' dug-out. The least expensive side in the league had completed the coup that had them winning 13 of their 16 matches.
A galaxy of international stars might have added fizz to the IPL but it was India's most improved domestic player who sparkled in the tense final at the DY Patil Stadium. Few outside India might have heard of Yusuf Pathan before this tournament but he imposed himself on the grand stage, snaffling three wickets before smashing a scintillating 56, setting the stage for the inspirational Shane Warne to pull off the last-ball nailbiter.
Chasing 164 wasn't going to be easy on the slightly two-paced surface and Rajasthan were hobbling at 42 for 3 but the 65-run stand between Yusuf and Shane Watson provided the impetus. Another mini-collapse put them in a spot but Warne and Tanvir put on 21 in a harum-scarum final leg. Chennai's sloppy fielding didn't help but the batsmen ensured they didn't lose their head.
L Balaji, who got a pasting in the first three overs, was brought on with eight needed off the final over. Three tight deliveries piled on the pressure before a costly wide, which also produced a bye, tilted the balance. With three needed off 2 balls, Tanvir hurried two to deep midwicket before settling the victory in the final ball. The best bowler of the tournament did his side a big service with the bat. Warne's mighty embrace suggested much.
The base was set by Yusuf's ballistic, yet fortuitous, fifty. Chennai will rue the chance they missed in the 11th over - Yusuf tried to loft Muttiah Muralitharan but Suresh Raina, one of India's best fielders, couldn't latch on to the skier after running from mid-on. With the asking rate approaching 10, that could have been a big blow. Murali had no answers against him in the next over, though, when he was blasted for two successive sixes over wide long-on.
Yusuf soon pounded Balaji, backing away and blitzing thunderbolts down the ground, and looked more like a veteran accustomed to such high-pressure situations. He looked set to run away with the match but Raina's dart-accurate throw from gully added another twist.
Yusuf was instrumental with the ball too. Just as Chennai appeared to be building partnerships he pegged them back with his fastish offbreaks. S Vidyut holed out to deep midwicket, Parthiv Patel snicked to the wicketkeeper, and Albie Morkel top-edged towards short fine leg. Not only was he the most effective of the bowlers but also the most economical one - showing the ability to raise his game at the crunch.
Chennai weren't outclassed, not by a long way. Against an efficient bowling attack, with a slow outfield to consider, they strung together a fighting total. Raina and Parthiv, the duo who took them to victory last night, put on a useful 25-run stand through accumulation rather than attack, ensuring that the platform was laid for the rest of the order.
Morkel's two sixes injected some verve into the innings before Raina and Dhoni upped the ante. What could have cost them is the decision to send Chamara Kapugedera ahead of S Badrinath. Kapugedera pottered around for a 12-ball 8 and it was left to Dhoni to up the rate. The 17th over, bowled by Watson, where he conceded just three and picked up a wicket, appeared to tilt the scales but a few mighty hits from Dhoni pushed them to 163. It was the highest total at the DY Patil Stadium but only for a couple of hours.