Shane Watson blasted his second hundred this season and finished with the highest ever score in an IPL final as Chennai Super Kings decimated Sunrisers Hyderabad by eight wickets to win the IPL for the third time.
Watson finished with 117 not out off 57 balls and was involved in valuable partnerships with Suresh Raina (32) and Ambati Rayudu (16 not out). Watson’s unbeaten 117 was the highest score in an IPL final.
CSK are now only the second team besides Mumbai Indians to win the IPL thrice.
MS Dhoni was playing in his eighth IPL final while CSK were in their seventh. The triumph over the 2016 champions marked a happy comeback for the men in yellow who were banned for two seasons following the spot-fixing scandal.
The victory on Sunday also meant Harbhajan Singh and Rayudu became two of only three people to win the IPL as many as four times. Harbhajan, who was out injured from the title clash with an injury, and Rayudu, had won three titles with Mumbai Indians. Both men were released by MI this year and went on to play significant roles for the Super Kings,
But it was Watson, who stood tall on the final night as he blasted his second hundred this season and fourth in the IPL overall as CSK gunned down a steep target of 179. It was not a great start for CSK, who struggled against Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Sandeep Sharma.
And when Faf du Plessis fell to Sandeep at the end of the fourth delivery, the pressure was squarely on CSK. Watson had taken 11 deliveries to get off the mark and Suresh Raina also took some time to get going.
Watson, however, announced his intent in the seventh over when he flicked Siddharth Kaul for a six. Raina smashed him for two more boundaries as CSK finally found some momentum in their chase.
In Kaul’s second over, Watson hit him for a six and a four as CSK caught up with the required rate which had started climbing sharply.
It was the 13th over when Watson truly tore into Sandeep Sharma, smashing him for 27 runs. That was the moment Kane Williamson could have said goodbye to his chances of lifting the IPL trophy in his first (and possibly only) season as a captain.
Carlos Brathwaite then struck in the next over to remove Rana for 32 but by then the required rate had come down under seven. That setback did not deter Watson, who kept up with his relentless attack, hammering Watson for a four and a six to finish off the over in style.
When Ambati Rayudu joining Watson, it was a mere formality for the Super Kings, who were cruising along at that stage. The final strategic time out of the season had little meaning for SRH. Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Rashid Khan, their trump cards had one over left each and that was not going to be enough to stop Chennai from plundering the 33 runs they needed off the last five overs.
After a chaotic toss, Dhoni trolled Sanjay Manjrekar and decided to bowl. CSK had nearly messed up a modest chase in Qualifier 1 against the same opponents at the same venue. Yet, Dhoni had enough confidence in his resources.
And his resources snuffed out Sreevats Goswami and Shikhar Dhawan inside the first 10 overs. Kane Williamson, the Orange Cap winner with 735 runs, fell for 47 when he was stumped by Dhoni off Karn Sharma.
Shakib Al Hasan walked out and came a little cameo to lift the Sunrisers but it was Yusuf Pathan’s brutal 25-ball 45 not out which helped SRH reach a competitive 178/6 off their 20 overs. Brathwaite’s quickfire 21 also did SRH no harm.
During CSK’s chase, Bhuvneshwar started with a maiden over and Sandeep bowled a tight second – and it looked like the tournament’s best bowling attack would test the tournament’s best batting line-up. Some stern questions were asked CSK’s top three in the first 10 overs but Watson, aided by Raina and Rayudu helped CSK storm home in what has been an emotional return to the IPL.