Like everyone else, David Warner knew RCB’s batting strength, beginning with Gayle and Kohli at the top, to be followed by AB de Villiers, Shane Watson, Lokesh Rahul and others. If he had opted to bowl first after winning the toss, he could probably be chasing a massive total, if only some of the RCB batsmen got themselves among runs. It was a bold decision regardless of SRH’s strong bowling line-up that has shown results throughout the tournament. If Kohli had won the toss, he might have asked Warner to bat first anyway. So the 2016 IPL final was destined for a target-chase by Kohli & Company and they almost got there. It was a grand spectacle worthy of the most important match of the tournament, where everyone expectedly played his part. More than 400 runs were scored in less than 4 hours, 14 wickets were taken, both captains scored fifties and Chris Gayle delighted with his 8 sixes. The tempo of the contest remained high at all times. For the first time in the Indian Premier League, the final was played between two teams from South India. One can, therefore also call it as the Southern India Derby, in which Hyderabad emerged as the first-time IPL champion. Unluckily, Bangalore lost their third final of the IPL.
David Warner won the toss and thought it wasn’t prudent to chase. So he came out with Shikhar Dhawan and decided to set a target for RCB. Leading from front, as he had always done this IPL, the SRH captain went about piling runs from the very start. Though Warner lost Dhawan and Moises Henriques by the 10th over, SRH had reached 97/2 at almost 10 runs an over. SRH got a jolt, when Warner fell in the 14th over at 125/3. There was a mini collapse of sorts but SRH found a late surge from Ben Cutting. The all-rounder cut loose and without much support, he helped in adding 50 runs for SRH in the last 3 overs with the last one from Shane Watson going for 24 runs. Cutting’s 15-ball 39 with 4 sixes took SRH to an extremely challenging 208/7.
Coming out to chase 209 required for victory, RCB took the gauntlet sportingly. With Chris Gayle in murderous mood, Virat Kohli opted to take the back seat and allowed his West Indian teammate most of the strike. Gayle delighted the home crowd with his explosive brand of batting and though he got out at 76 off 38 balls, he had slammed 4 boundaries and 8 mighty sixes. The tempo of scoring was continued even after Gayle got out and RCB kept themselves ahead on run-rate. But for once, Kohli got impatient after completing his fifty and was bowled by Barinder Sran. In the 14th over, RCB also lost AB de Villiers but they were still in the game. However, two quick wickets gave Warner a killing chance. His bowlers and fielders put their heart in the game and asking rate began to mount. Lokesh Rahul was bowled by Cutting and when Watson played a skier that was held by Henriques, RCB found themselves struggling at 164/5. They still need 45 off 21 balls. Their cause worsened with two run outs in 19th and 20th overs and despite Sachin Baby’s valiant efforts, RCB fell short by 8 runs.
David Warner and Virat Kohli have been excellent in this season of the Indian Premier League. They have led their sides with inspired scoring that finally took them to the final. Warner, in particular has been talismanic as a leader but he didn’t have the batting depth like Kohli had. Regardless, SRH Hyderabad performed outstandingly under the leadership of Warner. The difference between victory and defeat in the final was too narrow but Warner also had a bit of luck riding with him. For the second match in a row, Warner found someone, who could make a vital difference. If it was Bipul Sharma against Gujarat Lions, Ben Cutting came to Warner’s rescue in the final against RCB. Those two brilliant cameos were vital in SRH’s two victories. Against RCB, reaching 208/7 would not have been possible if Cutting had not cut loose like he did in the closing stages. Since RCB lost only by 8 runs, Cutting’s flaying of Shane Watson in the 20th over becomes vital in retrospect. It wasn’t quite past the midnight on Sunday, when SRH emerged victorious and they would have celebrated until the rise of the sun on Monday. Bravo Sun-risers!