As expected, the IPL 7 final was a high scoring encounter, with nearly 400 runs being scored in just under 40 overs. Both teams batted magnificently even as their bowlers were carted all around the park. But, in the end, the Kolkata batsmen vindicated Gautam Gambhir’s decision to field first in the big clash, and under immense pressure, chased down the mammoth target of 200. It was a triumph of their self-belief and their dedication as they came back from a torrid first half, and went on to lift their second IPL title in three years.
Most teams chasing 200 in a T20 final would have given up hope. But, in spite of losing their best batsman in the tournament, Robin Uthappa, even before the chase had gotten underway properly, they batted with confidence that translated to, ‘we can achieve this target.’ Manish Pandey, who is the first Indian to have slammed an IPL ton many seasons back, played an innings of top quality, which forever kept the Punjab bowlers under pressure. Throughout the chase, Pandey never allowed the required run rate to get out of control, as a result of which Kolkata won it easily in the end. His dismissal could have been a turning point, but Kolkata were strong enough to overcome the setback.
While Pandey was the standout performer, Kolkata were aided to a great extent by the supporting cameos, which meant that the partnerships kept building, and that too at a fast clip. First, skipper Gambhir played his hand with some well-times strokes, which helped Kolkata overcome the early loss of Uthappa. In T20, you have no time to sit back and ponder, and Kolkata, knowing that very well, kept gunning for the target. Unfortunately, the skipper fell just when it seemed his innings could blossom into another match-turning one.
In the context of the match, the partnership between Pandey and Yusuf Pathan was very close to the clincher. Had Pathan been dismissed early, Pandey would have been left to do too much on his own. But the big-hitting batsman came in and tonked the ball all over the place relieving the pressure on Pandey to a massive extent. The Pathan-Pandey alliance kept the required run rate very much in the realms of gettable, thus not allowing the Punjab bowlers to create any kind of pressure on them.
Pandey’s dismissal, just short of a hundred, was a massive setback for Kolkata. More than the personal landmark, it had put the team under some pressure, as some runs were still needed to get to cross the finishing line. This is where the contribution of Piyush Chawla will remain unforgettable for Kolkata fans. Under an extremely tense situation, he hit a six and four to take Kolkata through to victory. It had been a hard grind for Kolkata in IPL 7; from the stark reality of losing matches from winning situations to remaining unbeaten for a majority of the second half, it was worth it as Chawla hit that final four, and raised his arms in jubilation.
--By A Cricket Analyst