HYDERABAD: Slow and steady does not always win the race. Rising Pune Supergiant chose the humongous occasion of an IPL final to modify the meaning of the original saying and slumped to an embarrassing defeat by a solitary run after having a choke-hold on the match for the most part against Mumbai Indians on Sunday.
As a result, the latter made history by becoming the first team to grab three IPL trophies. While doing that, they defended the lowest total in an IPL final.
In one of the most intense games of the tournament, Steve Smith’s boys were caught in the mix of their own strategy and some extraordinary death bowling by the duo of Jasprit Bumrah and Mitchell Johnson. In the first half, RPS bowlers, propelled by Jaydev Unadkat (2/19), provided the perfect platform by restricting the bigwigs to a below-par score of 129/8. If it was not for the brilliance of Krunal Pandya (47), the ‘blues’ would have found it difficult to cross 120 and provide some resistance to their nemesis this season.
At the end of the first innings, the cup was almost in the hands of Pune. With the crowd behind them, it virtually looked like their home ground with thousands screaming ‘RPS RPS’ and ‘Dhoni Dhoni’. On the eve of the match, MI skipper Rohit Sharma had exclaimed that this season had not been about individual brilliance. But, he had a brilliant soldier in Bumrah, who has bewildered everyone by firing yorkers at will. And he reproduced that touch to capture the two important wickets of Rahul Tripathi (3) and MS Dhoni (10).
RPS got half of their target in 11 overs, with Smith (51) and Ajinkya Rahane (44) at the crease. After Rahane’s exit, RPS went into an even more defensive mood with Dhoni struggling to find the meat of the bat. The former skipper’s dismissal in the 17th over proved to be the turning point as they were suddenly required to score 10 an over.
All had looked over for Mumbai when Rahane was dropped on 14 by Krunal. But, the team failed to capitalise on the chance and surrendered, even though they had seven wickets in hand till the 19th over. With 11 required from the last over, Pune went agonisingly close to achieving the target. But, Dan Christian’s run-out sealed the deal on the last ball.
Krunal was adjudged Man of the Match for his innings of steel. A defeat might have resulted in him being haunted by the words that have become a part of cricket lore — ‘you’ve just dropped the cup’.