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A "Royal" finish to inaugural IPL tournament

The inaugural Indian Premier League came to an end on Sunday as the Shane Warne-led Rajasthan Royals defeated M.S. Dhoni-led Chennai Super Kings in a nail-biting finish.

Sent to bat first, Chennai started well with openers Vidyut Sivaramakrishnan and Parthiv Patel putting on 39 before a well-judged catch by Ravindra Jadeja sent Patel back to the pavilion in the sixth over.

Thereafter wickets fell in regular intervals preventing the Chennai players from accelerating the run-rate. However, Chennai captain Dhoni struck a quickfire 29 off 17 balls, including a huge six in the last over to take the team's total to a respectable 163 for 5 wickets.

Batting second, Rajasthan Royals received early blows when opener Niraj Patel was bowled in the fourth over by South African Makhaya Ntini while Swapnil Asnodkar fell to Albie Morkel's pace in the sixth over. The same over, Royals' wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal committed hara-kiri by going for a suicidal single.

However, as the required run-rate began to climb over 9 per over, middle-order batsman Yusuf Pathan and all-rounder Shane Watson steadied the ship, smashing the Chennai bowlers at will all over the field. While Watson plundered 28 runs off 19 balls before falling to the guile of Sri Lankan spinner Muralitharan, Pathan (who was dropped twice on 13 and 33) played a matchwinning knock of 56 runs off 39 balls, which included four 6s, before being run out by Suresh Raina.

From there on, the Royals were in safe territory and needing 18 runs off the final two overs, captain Shane Warne and Pakistani bowler Sohail Tanvir played classy strokes, running singles and twos, and thanks to fumbles by Chennai fielders, romped safely home, with Tanvir scoring the winning run off the final ball. The final score was 164 for 7.

Pathan was adjudged the IPL Man of the Match thanks to his vital score of 56 runs and useful 3 wickets haul, while Watson was adjudged the IPL Man of the Series after his superb 472 runs and 17 wickets throughout the tournament.

Lifting the trophy, Warne praised his team which, during the initial stages of the tournament, was given the "underdog" tag. The young team, Warne said, gave a spirited performance, which is evident from the team's 14 wins out of 17 matches, the highest number of wins by any team.

"I don't think there's been too many better teams I've played in over 20 years of first class cricket, just with the spirit in this squad," Warne said, whose team pocketed $1.2 million cash prize . "It's been a fantastic journey ... one hell of a ride."

"It has been a wonderful experience. It has been great seven weeks for the whole squad. We had great time and we all got gelled together right from the start. I am really proud of the youngsters the way the executed their game," he said.

Mr. 'Cool' Dhoni also thanked his players for putting up a spirited performance during the tournament and seeing the team sail through to the final. However, the captain of the Indian ODI-side hinted that poor fielding and bowling during the final cost his team the trophy.

"The response from the team members was terrific. Even the players who missed out in earlier matches came out to play their best in this game. We are not unhappy because the match went down to the last ball," Dhoni said.

However, Dhoni added that in the final his players were "not up to the mark."

"I don't want to pinpoint any particular player. I agree that we made a few mistakes in the field but the main problem was that we had just five bowlers and even if any one of them had a bad day, we had to persist with him," a dejected Dhoni said during the post-match press conference. His team pocketed the runner-up cash prize of $0.6 million.

The Fair Play Award went to Chennai Super Kings.

While Sohail Tanvir, who scalped 22 wickets, the highest in the tournament, became the proud owner of the purple cap, Kings XI Punjab's batting mainstay Shaun Marsh became the tournament's leading run scorer with 616 runs.

The two teams, Rajasthan Royals and Chennai Super Kings, have now qualified for the Champions T-20 which will be held tentatively in September with the top-two teams in Australia and England (as of now) also participating in a Champions League format.

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