Mumbai Indians (MI) overpowered Delhi Capitals (DC) by five wickets in the final to clinch a record-extending fifth Indian Premier League (IPL) title on Tuesday. Rohit Sharma's men also became the first team after Chennai Super Kings (CSK) to successfully defend the title in the high-pressure league.
MI proved their class by asserting their supremacy early in the title clash at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium. Trent Boult, who was traded by DC to MI ahead of the last auction, gave them a dream start as he sent back the dangerous Marcus Stoinis with the very first ball of the match. The left-arm pacer, who hurt DC badly in the first Qualifier as well, pushed Shreyas Iyer's side on the back foot as he dismissed Ajinkya Rahane for two.
The in-form opener Shikhar Dhawan was clean bowled by offie Jayant Yadav for 15 as Delhi slipped to 22/3 in the fourth over after electing to bat. Though Iyer (65 not out) and Rishabh Pant (56) staged a recovery, MI took four wickets while giving away only 38 runs off the last 31 balls to restrict them to 156/7. Boult, who was a doubtful starter with a groin problem, returned figures of 3/30.
Openers Rohit and Quinton de Kock provided MI the perfect start as they added 45 in four overs. Though de Kock perished for a 12-ball 20, Rohit aced the chase with a 51-ball 68.
Rohit won his fifth IPL title as captain. The elegant right-hander, whose fitness has been a hot topic of debate, silenced his critics with a match-winning knock on the big day. The chase was as good as over once MI reached 61/1 at the end of the powerplay of six overs.
MI were the hot favourites against DC, who were playing their maiden final. In fact MI did not have any obvious chinks in their armour. They flaunted a terrific top-order in Rohit, de Kock and Suryakumar Yadav, a power-packed middle-order consisting of Ishan Kishan, Hardik Pandya, Kieron Pollard and Krunal Pandya, and an excellent bowling attack led by Boult and Jasprit Bumrah. The ability of the MI batsmen to hit sixes at will meant the opposition bowlers were always under pressure.
Kishan (516), de Kock (503) and Suryakumar (480) were the top run-getters for MI, while Bumrah (27 wickets) and Boult (25) wreaked havoc with the ball.
MI were easily the best side in the fray. They topped the league phase by winning nine out of the 14 games. MI handed DC a thrashing in the first Qualifier and did an encore in the final. They had beaten DC twice in the league stage too. Like all great teams, MI have an array of match-winners and it meant they broke their jinx of never having a won an IPL title in an even year. They also improved their record in IPL finals to 5-1, with the lone defeat coming at the hands of CSK in 2010.
The MI think tank comprising Rohit, head coach Mahela Jayawardene, director of cricket Zaheer Khan and batting coach Robin Singh as well as senior player Pollard deserve praise for moulding them into a champion outfit. Given the way they dominated this season, the other franchises will certainly be wary of MI when the next edition gets underway in six months' time.