An unbelievable IPL 2014 culminated in an absolutely brilliant final, a final which saw the Kolkata Knight Riders script a thrilling victory over the Kings XI Punjab to clinch their second IPL title in three years.
The stage was set for an epic IPL 2014 final on a beauty of a Chinnaswamy track in Bangalore, and that is precisely what we got as a hundred for the ages from Kolkata boy Wriddhiman Saha (115 n.o., 55b, 10x4, 8x6) helped Kings XI Punjab post a mammoth total of 199 for four in their 20 overs.
Chasing a target under extreme pressure in a major final is never easy, but local lad Manish Pandey showed veins cooler than ice, with an equally brilliant 94 (50b, 7x4, 6x6) to help KKR chase down the target with three balls to spare in the most dramatic fashion.
The Knight Riders rode that victory wave all the way to the title, courtesy their ninth straight win overall, with the final one as sweet as they come. At the other end, it is an agonising defeat for KXIP in their first appearance in the final, but seeing their squad, no doubt, they will return a stronger side next season, with another crack at lifting that Golden Cup definitely lying in wait.
KKR would have been hoping for another big score from their in-form man Robin Uthappa, but the opener's incredible run of 10 straight innings of 40 runs or overs came to an end – Mitchell Johnson taking the prized wicket in the first over with Uthappa chipping one to Akshar Patel at point.
The responsibility naturally fell on Gautam Gambhir to give KKR a big start in this big chase, and the left-hander did that reasonably well, striking quite a few boundaries, with Pandey also looking in the mood right from the off.
The duo put on 53 in 33 balls together, taking KKR to 60 for one at the end of the Powerplay. However, Gambhir (23, 17b, 3x4) would fail to make full use of his start, falling in the first ball of the seventh over, holing out to David Miller in the deep off leg-spinner Karanveer Singh.
Pandey, though, was in the mood, enjoying himself at his home ground, as the right-hander kept KKR in the game by finding boundaries at will. Yusuf Pathan (36, 22b, 4x6) also did his bit reasonably well, hitting a few typically lusty blows, while forging a crucial 71-run partnership from 44 balls.
Pathan's wicket, in the 14th over, left KKR needing 70 from the last 40 deliveries, with Pandey bringing that down considerably with a couple of wonderful quickfire boundaries. A quite makeable 58 from 36 deliveries, courtesy those boundaries, was then brought down to 44 from 28 with Shakib Al Hasan also getting into the act, before that man George Bailey again came to the fore for his side with a brilliant piece of fielding to send the dangerous-looking Shakib (12, 7b, 2x4) packing.
The game was still well within KKR's reach, though, especially with Pandey at the crease. Ryan Ten Doeschate could not quite give Pandey the company needed, falling after facing just three balls, with Karanveer picking up his third wicket. However, that wicket, in the third ball of the 17th over, after Pandey had smoked a six off the first delivery, was followed by another six and four from Pandey, before Karanveer (4-0-54-4) picked up the big wicket of Pandey.
The KKR right-hander was striking pretty much every ball sweetly, but an attempt at depositing another flighted delivery into the stands to bring up his hundred, ended up in a mistimed shot with Bailey completing a simple catch.
It was KKR's game to lose, however, with just 21 required from the final three overs, even if two of those overs were to be bowled by Akshar Patel (4-0-21-0), the deserved winner of the Emerging Player award, and Mitchell Johnson (4-0-41-2).
Patel kept it tight, with Johnson bowling a brilliant five balls of the penultimate over, including picking up Suryakumar Yadav, before a shocker of a short delivery was dispatched over the ropes by Piyush Chawla, leaving KKR needing just five runs in the final over.
Parwinder Awana did his best, but Chawla (13, 5b, 1x4, 1x6), against his former team, completed the job brilliantly, taking KKR to 200 with a boundary over the offside to cue pandemonium.
The first innings was not about Glenn Maxwell, David Miller, George Bailey or even Virender fresh-from-a-brilliant-hundred Sehwag; instead it was about one exciting youngster and another wicketkeeper/batsman who unfurled an innings nobody would have imagined he was capable of.
It did not start swimmingly for KXIP, with Sehwag and Bailey, who sent himself up the order to No.3, falling early to put the pressure on themselves. Sehwag (7, 10b, 1x4) fell in the fourth over of the innings, mistiming a nice short delivery from Umesh Yadav with Gautam Gambhir completing a simple catch at mid-off.
Bailey's decision to walk in at one-down did not work as the Kings XI skipper lasted just two deliveries, walking across his stumps a little too much to Sunil Narine who hit leg stump with his first ball.
That was about the only joy Narine, who has been under the spotlight for reasons concerning his national side the West Indies, with the mystery spinner, after a brilliant first over, tonked left, right and centre by Wriddhiman Saha.
Such hitting would have been unthinkable after 10 overs of the first innings, with Kings XI seemingly stuck between a rock and a hard place at 58 for two, as Saha and Manan Vohra tried to rebuild the innings.
The idea would have been to ensure no more wickets fell in the first phase of the innings, before allowing the likes of Maxwell and Miller to go crazy in the six-happy Chinnaswamy.
However, it turned out Maxwell and Miller were not needed as Saha and Vohra put on a T20 batting master class with a 129-run partnership from 12 overs. A 141 runs were scored in the final ten overs, with Saha, quite brilliantly, catching fire, leaving the KKR bowlers, the best lineup in the IPL, perplexed and clueless.
The hitting was clean, the torture of the bowling mean, as Saha put on one of the best hundreds ever seen.
A century had been never scored in an IPL final, and Saha ensured that record would be broken, reaching his three-figures with a six off Narine, who will still be dreading the moment he missed the catch to dismiss the Kings XI slugger when he was on 60. An attempted slog to the legside in the 16th over, saw Saha completely mishit it with the ball popping high into the air. Narine called it and ran to complete a catch off his own bowling, only to grass it much to his own horror.
Narine should have had another wicket in the same over as well, that of Vohra with the KXIP opener getting beaten by a peach of a delivery and Uthappa whipping off the bails in a flash. Replays, though, showed Uthappa had collected the ball in front of the stumps, with the end result being a no-ball instead of a wicket.
Those two wickets could have changed the complexion of the game completely, even if Vohra (67, 52b, 6x4, 2x6) fell soon enough, with Saha just going berserk in the final three overs, with the manner in which he reached his first IPL hundred a thing of beauty, courtesy a six, four and a six off the previously unhittable Narine, who went for 44 runs in his final three overs, after conceding just two in his first.
However, that outstanding knock came to nought as KKR scampered home.