By Rajarshi Gupta: Chennai Super Kings won a record-equaling fifth IPL title when Ravindra Jadeja hit the last two balls for 6 and 4 in a nail-biting final against Gujarat Titans at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad in the early hours of Tuesday. The final of the 2023 Indian Premier League was truncated by rain but CSK and GT made it a title clash to remember.
CSK needed 13 runs off the final over of what is arguably the greatest IPL season. Mohit Sharma, who was sensational for the Titans throughout the season, rocked the Super Kings chase with the wickets of Ambati Rayudu and MS Dhoni but Ravindra Jadeja stayed calm and hit two of the most important shots in CSK’s history to give them their fifth IPL title.
Chennai Super Kings have now equaled Mumbai Indians’ record for five IPL titles. MS Dhoni who was leading in his 10th IPL final, has also drawn level with Rohit Sharma – both men now have five IPL titles as captain.
Gujarat Titans were so close to becoming the first team in IPL history to win back-to-back titles in their first two seasons but that was not to be. The Titans had finished on top of the points table for the second successive year and made it to the final after defeating MI in Qualifier 2.
The final was a re-run of the IPL 2023 season opener. GT had defeated CSK in Ahmedabad on March 31 and then lost to them in Qualifier 1. It was a stunning turnaround for CSK who had finished 9th in the points table in 2022.
Chennai Super Kings had won their first IPL title in 2010 and then defended it in 2011. They were suspended for two years in 2016 and 2017 and came back to win their third title in 2018. They had a horror run in 2020 but bounced back with their fourth title in 2021. And after forgettable season in 2022, the Super Kings created history in 2023 with their fifth IPL crown.
RESERVE DAY FINAL
The final was scheduled to start on Sunday but rain washed out play on May 28 without a ball being bowled. The match started on time on the Reserve Day and all seemed to go well until rain stopped play just three balls into the CSK innings. And that would be the start of a long wait until a revised target was worked out.
The umpires first inspected the pitch at 10.45 PM but the GT captain Hardik Pandya and coach Ashish Nehra did not seem happy with the conditions. There was another inspection at 11.30 PM and the officials were then able to confirm a resumption time with a stiff target for CSK.
The match resumed at 12.10 AM after a delay of 2 hours and 20 minutes with a revised target of 171 runs in 15 overs for Chennai Super Kings.
CSK were 4 for no loss when rain forced a stoppage after just three balls in their innings. Devon Conway wasn’t at his fluent best in Qualifier 1 against the same opponents but in the final, on a different pitch, he was unstoppable. While Ruturaj Gaikwad decided to adopt a wait-and-watch approach, Conway took the attack to the Titans with back-to-back boundaries off Mohammed Shami and then a six off Josh Little. Gaikwad played his part with a six and a four off Rashid Khan and the Super Kings chase was underway.
CSK roared to 52 for no loss off 4 overs, the Powerplay mark in a truncated game. GT needed a miracle to claw back into the game and that moment came from the young Noor Ahmad who struck twice in his second over to remove Gaikwad and Conway. The CSK openers had laid a superb platform with a 74-run stand and it was now over to Shivam Dube and Ajinkya Rahane. Noor Ahmad further bottled up the CSK with a 9-run over and he bowled out with 2 for 17 off his 3 overs. Shivam Dube, who was in great six-hitting form for the Super Kings, struggled against the Gujarat spinners but Ajinkya Rahane took the pressure off with successive boundaries in Rashid Khan’s second over.
Hardik Pandya unleashed Mohit Sharma in the 11th over of the CSK chase and like he did against Mumbai Indians in Qualifier 2, he picked another important wicket straightaway. Rahane was looking excellent and was looking to steer the run chase for Chennai before he fell to Mohit in his first over. These were dangerous signs for CSK who were up against another champion GT bowler who had rocked MI with a five-wicket haul on Friday.
RAYUDU, JADEJA SENSATIONAL
Ambati Rayudu playing his last IPL match, walked in to join Shivam Dube who broke the shackles with consecutive sixes off Rashid Khan in his final over. CSK continued to get closer to the revised target when Rayudu hit Mohit Sharma for 6, 4, 6 before offering the bowler a return catch. MS Dhoni walked to loud cheers but he was for a golden duck. But it was still CSK’s match to lose with 21 needed off the last 2 overs.
Mohammed Shami followed that up with a top over, giving away just 8 runs, leaving the Super Kings to score 13 runs off the final 6 balls. Mohit Sharma, tasked with bowling the last over, bowled four brilliant balls and brought the equation down to 10 runs off the last two balls. Ravindra Jadeja hit the penultimate ball for six and CSK needed four runs off the final ball of the tournament. Jadeja hit a boundary and CSK were champions for the fifth time.
Chennai Super Kings captain MS Dhoni won the toss and decided to bowl because of the rain threat on the Reserve Day while his Gujarat Titans captain said he was happy to bat on a flat pitch. The in-form Titans batting line-up delivered and the reigning champions raced away to 214 for 4 off 20 overs, the highest team total in any IPL final.
It was a special effort. Wriddhiman Saha and Shubman Gill shifted gears after a watchful start in the first couple of overs. Shubman Gill who was dropped on 30 in Qualifier 2, was dropped again in the final, this time even earlier. However, he did not make CSK pay as badly as he made Mumbai Indians pay. On Monday, Gill smashed a 20-ball 39 but it was enough to give the Titans a roaring start and help him finish the tournament with 890 runs, the most by batter in any IPL season.
SAI SUDHARSAN HEROICS IN VAIN
Gill and Saha were superb on a pitch which promised lots of runs. CSK were unusually poor on the field and their bowlers lacked control with the new ball and later in the death. The Titans openers made good use of poor bowling from the Super Kings and collected 62 off the first 6 overs, the most runs in the Powerplay in any IPL final.
Shubman Gill had a sensational season and the world wanted to see if he could become the second batter after Virat Kohli to hit 900 runs in an IPL season. However, that wasn’t to be as Ravindra Jadeja removed Gill for 39 thanks to sensational piece of wicketkeeping by MS Dhoni and he finished the season with 890 runs, the second most by any batter in any IPL tournament.
Wriddhiman Saha was unperturbed and continued to play his shots even after Gill’s exit. 9 years ago, Saha had scored a hundred for Punjab Kings (then Kings XI Punjab) in the final against Kolkata Knight Riders and on Monday, he became the oldest batter to hit a half-century in an IPL final. He was also involved in a 64-run partnership for the second wicket with Sai Sudharsan who became the second youngest batter to hit a fifty in any IPL final. It was a superb stand for the Titans who needed some solidity after their run-machine of an opener departed after a strong Powerplay.
The GT innings was a great example of team batting. While Saha was on attack mode, Sai Sudharsan took his time to settle down and scored only 23 runs off the first 19 balls before joining the party. A clever slower ball from Deepak Chahar removed Saha for a 39-ball 54 and that is when Sudharsan started to show his great range of shots.
Sai Sudharsan has played some crucial knocks for the Titans but he had retired out in Qualifier 2 after struggling to maintain the tempo following a sensational 129 by Shubman Gill. Sudharsan looked good for a hundred when he picked 19 runs from a Tushar Deshpande over but he fell four runs short in the final over when Matheesha Pathirana trapped him LBW for 96. This was the highest individual score by an uncapped player and the third highest by a batter in an IPL final. Sudharsan’s 47-ball knock was studded with 8 fours and 6 sixes.
Hardik Pandya played another superb cameo and remained unbeaten on 21 off 12 fours as Gujarat Titans posted the highest team total in the history of IPL finals.