Sport often holds up a mirror to life, laying naked the character of its practitioners. The grand finale of the Indian Premier League turned out to be a thrilling contest between the brutal batting strength of Royal Challengers Bangalore and the monk-like perseverance of Sunrisers Hyderabad's bowlers. Either side of the innings break, RCB threatened to take complete control of the final, but it was ultimately Sunrisers which prevailed with a resilient display of breathtaking brilliance towards the end of both innings.
It was once again David Warner who took on the responsibility of firing his team forward. The diminutive Aussie played a stellar attacking knock to set a brazenly brilliant tone for this pulsating final between the two best teams of the tournament.
Warner's ninth 50 of this IPL came off just 24 balls, tying the fastest mark for a half-century in the final with Suresh Raina, who got his score in the 2010 final. It seemed like RCB might be taken to the cleaners with Warner striking the ball in imperious fashion.
Warner's control over the ball was complete — on one instance, he played a nuanced slice off a wide Shane Watson delivery, floating the ball through a meagre 10-yard gap between Sachin Baby at short third man and Chris Gayle at backward point. Neither fielder moved, just opting to hold their heads in dismay at Warner's audacity in crafting such a risky stroke to near perfection.
As usual though, Sunrisers' middle-order showed neither desire nor commitment to support their determined captain. Just when the Sunrisers were sitting pretty at 63-0 at the end of the powerplay, Shikhar Dhawan played too early to a slowish googly outside off, top-edging his sweep shot. Moises Henriques too departed in the 10th over, again to a mistimed shot. The two dismissals broke Warner's rhythm as the weight of the final began to seep under his skin. Warner himself departed in the 14th over, miscuing an intended cut through the covers.
RCB were back in control at this stage. They strengthened their grip on the game, hacking out Deepak Hooda at the end of the 16th over. Hyderabad were 147/4 at this stage and the innings was lacking any meaningful pace, despite a solid effort from Yuvraj. Matters only worsened when Yuvraj contrived his end, lobbing one to extra cover off the very next ball.
But Ben Cutting showed remarkable courage and character, playing out of his skin despite a complete lack of support at the other end. If Bengaluru turned the tide in their favour through the middle overs, Cutting played an innings of great substance to snatch the initiative right back at the death. One of his four sixes sailed into the adjoining Cubbon Park, a good 117 metres from his position at the crease.
The Sunrisers clearly had their tails up at this point, with Cutting architecting a 52-run heist in the last three overs, including 24 off the final over bowled by Watson. The 29-year-old Aussie was only drafted into the playing XI during the final stages of the IPL, and he proved his utility with the bat, but there was barely anything to suggest that he could take the match by its collar and swing it in the Sunrisers' favour. But Cutting transformed the nature of Sunrisers' batting, taking it past the magical 200-run mark with an astonishing destruction at the death.
But he was far from done. Chris Gayle picked just the perfect match to showcase his ability to swing matches. Virat Kohli was patchy at the start, but when he too plundered a four and six off an efficient Mustafizur Rahman, all hope seemed lost for Hyderabad. At 112-0 at the halfway stage, it appeared as though RCB would cruise to victory, making the 209-run chase seem like a breeze.
Cutting had been scarred by Gayle in the eighth over, but he came back to stem the rot in the 11th over. The signs turned ominous for Hyderabad when Mustafizur put down a simple chance off Kohli at short third man. Off the very next ball though, Gayle misread an off-cutter and Bipul Sharma's lunging catch at third man earned Sunrisers a crucial breakthrough.
Cutting had opened the door. And Barinder Sran and Bipul Sharma helped Sunrisers barge right back into the contest. Kohli and AB de Villiers were upended in the space of just seven balls. The RCB ship, which was operating on cruise control, floating serenely on calm waters, suddenly found itself through turbulence.
Watson and KL Rahul, who needed to make amends for some ordinary work behind the stumps, were expected to carry their team over the line. But it was Cutting again who intervened — cleaning up Rahul in the 16th over. Mustafizur was made to look ordinary by Gayle and Kohli. But Cutting had emboldened his fellow bowlers with this performance. Mustafizur played his familiar role at the death to dismiss Watson, the last real obstacle between the Sunrisers and a maiden IPL title. Cutting played a remarkably impactful role to get the Sunrisers past the RCB in the most important game of the season.
It was a season that has proven beyond doubt that irrespective of the format, it is really bowlers who win matches. Batsmen merely set it up. Regardless of Cutting's contribution on Sunday, this IPL will be remembered for the determination and commitment displayed by Warner. He shouldered responsibility, played with consistency, essentially carrying an unfancied team all the way to the summit.
Sunrisers Hyderabad are the now the proud winners of the trophy — the sixth team to do so after Rajasthan Royals, Deccan Chargers, Chennai Super Kings, Kolkata Knight Riders and Mumbai Indians.
Updated Date: May 30, 2016 16:10 PM