Throughout the IPL 2020, there was a difference in standard between the Mumbai Indians and the other sides. Based on the strength of Mumbai Indians in comparison to the Delhi Capitals, the fixture between the best and the next-best side had an eerie resemblance with the 2003 Cricket World Cup final. Though, Ricky Ponting was in a different camp this time.
In what ended up being one of the most one-sided finals, Mumbai Indians broke the even year jinx to lift their fifth IPL title. They also became the second team after Chennai Super Kings to successfully defend their title.
It is ironic that the player who the Capitals gifted to the MI before this year’s IPL turned out to be their tormentor throughout the season. It is even more ironic that the core whose strength MI have enjoyed over the years was put together when Ponting was at the helm first as a captain in 2013, then as a head coach from 2014 to 2016.
Putting all that aside, with five titles in the last eight years, there is hardly any franchise across sports that have dominated as much as MI in this period. No other team deserved to win the title in 2020 more than them.
Where MI won the game?
Dent them with the new ball and choke them at the death has been the MI winning formula throughout the season. It was the same on the night of the final.
They reduced the Capitals to 3/22 inside the fourth over.
As he suffered a groin injury in the Qualifier 1, there were concerns regarding Trent Boult's fitness ahead of this match. As he steamed in to bowl the first ball, all eyes were on him to see if he had recovered well. What happened after the ball left his hand thwarted all concerns.
Probably expecting a loosener first up, Marcus Stoinis was prepared neither for a full ball nor a short one. For the one that hit the length and angled in, he was a dead duck. In their mission to win a maiden title, Delhi realised their worst nightmare on the first ball. The elation among the MI players displayed the importance of that wicket and the hunger for a consecutive title.
In the third over of Delhi's innings, Boult took care of Ajinkya Rahane who was in at three. An attempt to get his innings going on a ball at his pads went in vain as all he could manage was a tickle to Quinton de Kock.
Shikhar Dhawan and Shreyas Iyer survived being dismissed twice. Bowling the second over, Jasprit Bumrah almost bounced Dhawan out but the ball flew over the cordon. Set up for a yorker similar to that in the Qualifier 1, Dhawan survived later in the over as the ball missed hitting the stumps after ricocheting off his pads.
Tentative to start in the biggest match of his cricket career so far, Iyer chased a short and wide ball from Boult only to edge it over the cordon. Boult executed a bouncer next up that almost lobbed back for a return catch.
To counter Delhi's left-handers, MI had included Jayant Yadav in their XI. While the pacers were breathing fire, handing the ball to him in the fourth over seemed too soon. But, the move resulted in Dhawan going a little too hard on the sweep and missing the ball that crashed into his stumps.
Iyer and Rishabh Pant resurrected Delhi with a 96-run stand, but MI pacers restricted them to a moderate total with only 38 runs at the death.
With three overs from Bumrah and Boult left from the last five, it was impractical to aim for a big finish from Delhi's batsmen. The competence of Mumbai pacers with the change of pace allowed Delhi to hit only five boundaries in this phase.
After losing four games to MI in the season, no other player hurt Delhi more than Boult. He finished the season with 9/96 in 14 overs against his former team.
Iyer-Pant fought hard
When the Delhi Capitals suffered a dip in the second half of their season, the form of two players hurt them the most. These were the two players they had invested in the most over the past few years, Iyer and Pant.
On the night that matters, it was these two men who got along to revive the Delhi innings after the MI bowlers had sucked the life out of it in the Powerplay. The pair ensured that they lost no further wickets till the last ball of the 15th over.
Shedding his tentativeness, Iyer opted to play his shots from fifth over onwards. On most occasions, he deployed his antics of moving to the leg side to make room and cut the ball hard to offside fence.
MI always had a weaker spin attack. Even the third pacer has been a toss-up between two Aussies. But, such has been the impact of Bumrah and Boult that other sides could not exploit this weakness. Tonight, Pant used his match-up against Krunal Pandya to hit him for two sixes on the leg side in the 10th over. When he returned later to ball the 14th, he swatted him fine behind the square on the leg side for another four.
The duo foiled MI's plan to slip in an over from Kieron Pollard. Attacking him right away, Pant unleashed a cut that earned him a boundary while Iyer hit him for a six down the ground in an over that cost 13 runs. Pollard did not return to bowl.
By the 15th over, Pant's confidence was back. Seeing the ball well, he hit Nathan Coulter-Nile for two fours behind the square. By the last ball of the over, MI had changed the field to push the fine leg back. Probably backing himself to clear him or just failing to notice the field change, Pant attempted a pull in that direction. The ball hit high on the bat and the fine leg fielder gulped it with ease.
Losing the set batsman at the stroke of the last five overs devoid Delhi of a competitive total.
Rohit Sharma killed the chase
For a young captain like Iyer, there would have been a sense of hopelessness by the way MI started the run-chase.
No other player has won more IPL titles than Rohit. It did not take him long to display that he has no burden of the pressure of the big stage. Neither of the batsmen that partnered him in the Powerplay, de Kock and Suryakumar Yadav was subdued either.
The MI batsmen hit a six in four Powerplay overs, deflating Delhi very soon.
Considering his past success against both MI openers, DC started with Ravi Ashwin. Off the third ball, Rohit came down the ground for a six over long-on. It was a gutsy move given that DC placed a fielder there in anticipation of the shot. Rohit had timed the ball well enough to elude him.
Throughout the tournament, de Kock had been particularly severe to his South African counterparts. Tonight was no different as he smashed DC's most potent weapon, Kagiso Rabada, for two fours and a six over midwicket in the second over. He pulled Ashwin for another four in the third over.
It is a known fact that you do not bowl short to Rohit. Probably, Anrich Nortje has not been around long enough to know this. After tonight, he will never forget to implement this. To two short of length balls, Rohit collected a four and a six each to put Delhi's find of the tournament under pressure.
The only moment of celebration for DC came in the fifth over. After being dismissed for a first-ball duck, Stoinis took a wicket off the first ball, getting de Kock edged to the keeper.
However, due to MI's assembly line of batsmen, the celebration was short-lived. Surya started his innings with a four through the offside and six to fine leg.
The MI top order had done so much damage in the Powerplay that all they needed after that was to avoid an implosion. And they managed it with ease.
The only high point for DC in overs 9-15 did not come due to their bowlers, but because of a misunderstanding between MI batsmen. In the 12th over of the innings, Rohit set out to run after pushing the ball to extra cover. His partner, Suryakumar was not interested in the run that was not there. However, realising that his captain was in touch tonight, Surya left his crease and sacrificed his wicket.
Either side of this forgetful moment, MI added 65 runs in the nine overs to ensure that the end is near for Delhi's hope for a maiden IPL title.
Before Surya's dismissal, Rohit was severe on Delhi's leg-spinner, Pravin Dubey. He hit him for two mighty sixes down the ground in the 9th over. After Surya's dismissal, Rohit unleashed his anger on Rabada whom he smoked for two fours. The first at mid-wicket brought his half-century. The second was slashed past point in disdain.
While others around him were having fun, Ishan Kishan too joined the party with six over long-off in the 15th over. It took just 22 balls for MI batsmen to hit the remaining 31 runs from there.
Due to an exceptional catch by the substitute fielder, Lalit Yadav, Rohit could not stay there to finish the job.
With the victory imminent, casual shots led to the wickets of Pollard and Hardik Pandya. But, in the end, their most prolific run-scorer this season, Kishan, stood tall till the end as the elder Pandya finished the game off.
With their business empire being debt-free and their team winning titles, a forgetful year for most will be a memorable one for Mumbai Indians and their owners. As for Delhi, they finished second the year after ending third. Their graph is headed in the right direction.