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Terrific end to a stupendous show

The inaugural DLF-IPL Twenty20 competition was not about the big hits alone.

Pacemen with control and movement struck. Spinners with clarity of thought and variety largely delivered. There were phases when batsmen who could graft were needed by their teams like oxygen. And natural stroke-makers flourished without resorting to crude methods.

Of course, there were a few ugly heaves that went for the maximum and a few dismissals that were self-inflicted. But then, Twenty20 cricket proved more than just a ‘hit or miss’ format.

Shane Warne, a tactically sharp captain with great motivational skills, showed strategy had its place even in the shortest version of the game. Warne shuffled his batsmen, managed his overs wonderfully well and switched his fielders around with great tact, either luring or suffocating the batsmen.

Fittingly, the Royals skipper was in the middle when his team nailed a humdinger off the last ball in a pulsating final.

The popular IPL witnessed packed stadiums and high-octane duels. The competition could grow in the years to come.

Chennai Super Kings lost by a short head and the side paid for a couple of tactical lapses in the final. S. Badrinath could have been sent higher in the order and the side should have squeezed in an extra bowler in the eleven for the title clash.

Still, Super Kings could have run away with the crown had the normally safe Raina held on to a skier from Yusuf Pathan when the batsman was on 13. The Royals was bleeding at that point and Pathan’s exit might have settled the issue in the Chennai team’s favour.

Smart cricketers cash in on missed opportunities and Pathan’s blows into the stands shrunk the target. He is calm under pressure, hits the ball cleanly from a natural swing of the willow, comprehends his scoring areas and waits for the right deliveries to strike.

“I know I can make up for the dot balls,” he says. Some of Pathan’s straight-hitting in the tournament was awesome.

Pathan’s explosive batting and his fastish variety of off-spin delivered from a high-arm action have fetched him a place in the Indian ODI team for the Bangladesh tri-series and the Asia Cup.

Shane Watson’s fluent and strokeful ways with the willow and lively, hustling pace bowling — he used the short ball effectively — proved priceless for the winner. And the big and strong Graeme Smith blazed away at the top of the order. The little Swapnil Asnodkar delighted.

Left-arm paceman Sohail Tanvir’s deceptive, swinging, deliveries from a quick-arm action and canny changes of pace saw him striking at various stages of the innings; he was used cleverly by Warne. Yorkers around or just outside the off-stump are hard to score off.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni led the Super Kings with composure. The team re-grouped after the departure of Matthew Hayden and Michael Hussey. The left-handed Raina impressed, so did that lion-hearted pace-bowling all-rounder Albie Morkel. Tall paceman Manpreet Gony, with a high-arm action and bounce, has possibilities. Makhaya Ntini bowled with exemplary commitment and zeal in the semifinals and final.

For Kings XI Punjab, Shuan Marsh, a left-hander and a natural with the right strokes and attitude, sizzled at the top of the order. S. Sreesanth and Irfan Pathan swung and struck. Yuvraj Singh’s decisive flying Jonty Rhodes-like run-out out dismissal at the death against Mumbai Indians was a high point of the competition.

Young leg-spinners Piyush Chawla (Kings XI) and Amit Mishra, (Delhi Daredevils) bowled with flight, heart and spin. Left-armer, Pragyan Ojha, named in the Indian ODI squad, has variety.

Glenn McGrath and Shaun Pollock bowled with exemplary precision. Another old soldier Sanath Jayasuriya produced the big blows.

Delhi Daredevils had its moments in the competition with the rampant opening pair of Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag cutting loose. Young paceman V. Yomahesh was undaunted by reputations.

A few big guns such as Shahid Afridi, Misbah-ul-Haq and Herschelle Gibbs failed to fire. Better-knit sides than a collection of names won.

Harbhajan Singh’s physical assault on S. Sreesanth and the controversies surrounding Royal Challengers Bangalore shifted attention, briefly, from cricket, but the game had the final say.

The competition, given a rousing beginning by Brendon McCullum’s incredible hundred in Bangalore, ended in a last-ball finish. And what a conclusion!

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