The prospect of a final face-off between Sachin Tendulkar and Shane Warne had dominated the build-up to this clash, but on the field it was overshadowed by an imposing performance from Shane Watson. Not only did he deliver a fitting farewell for his captain from competitive cricket, he also left Mumbai Indians under serious pressure to keep their qualification chances alive following a third straight defeat. For someone who had struggled to capitalise on starts through this tournament, Watson compensated with a splendid all-round effort, with each of his crushing blows serving Mumbai a painful reminder of what they should have achieved on a good pitch.
The Tendulkar-Warne contest should have been a non-event as left-arm spinner Ankeet Chavan trapped Tendulkar twice in front, only for umpire Paul Reiffel to think otherwise. Backed up by his disciplined bowling at one end, Watson dismissed T Suman and Ambati Rayudu in successive overs from the other, depriving the hosts of the attacking start they would have hoped for after choosing to bat. And just as Kieron Pollard had warmed up at the death after muscling a couple of boundaries, Watson cleaned him up to restrict Mumbai to a below-par total, one that was given some respectability by a classy half-century from Rohit Sharma.
It didn't take long for Watson to set about punishing Mumbai, as he smote Harbhajan Singh for two massive sixes over midwicket in the second over of the chase. He followed that up by drilling Lasith Malinga past mid-off in an over that perhaps produced his only moment of discomfort. Malinga responded venomously, knocking back Watson's chin with a bouncer - it escaped the grill, there would have been some pain but Watson didn't flinch. His own response? A memorable counterattack, pulling Malinga each time he dropped short, his next seven balls producing three fours, a flat six and a stunned crowd not used to seeing their star-studded home team being overwhelmed in that manner.
A sense of resignation was felt in the crowd, if not among the players, when Watson smacked Harbhajan for three consecutive fours in his comeback over, while Rahul Dravid, happy to play the supporting role, showed his own class with some delightful boundaries off Pollard and Munaf Patel. The pair remained unbeaten, Rajasthan cantered home, marking a satisfactory end after their turmoil-filled build-up to the tournament.
Rohit had won praise from Warne as one of the most exciting talents in Indian cricket, and he undoubtedly would have impressed his opposing captain with his performance today. He quickly took the lead in the stand with Tendulkar, his stand-out shot being an imposing drive against Warne through extra cover, matched by a delightful punch in the same region off Johan Botha who couldn't restrain Rohit despite chasing him as he made room.
Rohit used his feet well to spin, and stepped up in the late overs after Tendulkar perished to an upper cut off Amit Singh. Warne though, wasn't finishing his spell without a cheer. His final victory with the ball was the stumping of Rohit, stunned by the turn and losing his bat to square leg with a wild swing gone bad. At the end of the game, Warne was still smiling while Mumbai stayed baffled.