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Wednesday, June 4, 2008

RAJASTHAN ROYALS CHAMP OF IPL !!

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On 1st June, after 44 days of mind-boggling action and a no-holds-barred feud among eight fierce franchisees, Rajasthan Royals pipped Chennai Super Kings by three wickets in the thrilling grand finale to lift the inaugural Indian Premier League title.

Chasing Super Kings' modest total of 163 for five, the Royals rode on a brilliant all-round display by Yusuf Pathan, who took three wickets and top-scored with a 39-ball 56 to overhaul the score off the last ball after needing eight from the last over.

Sohail Tanvir (9 not out) hit the winning run, a pull off the expensive L Balaji, in the company of his inspiring captain Shane Warne, who was not out on 9 in a final score of 164 for seven.

The winners received the top prize of USD 1.2 million and a glittering gem-laden trophy while the runners-up won USD 600,000.

It was a superb final, although a low-scoring one on a slow track, that made up for the disappointment of one-sided semifinals held at the Wankhede Stadium.

The 25-year-old Pathan did the star turn for the winners by sending back the top three Super Kings' batsmen with his off breaks while conceding 22 runs.

The Baroda right-hander then stepped in when his team was struggling at 42 for three to play a punishing knock of 56, using his bat like a sledgehammer while hitting four sixes and three fours to put Rajasthan Royals on the path to a thrilling victory in front of 55,000 spectators.

Pathan, who was particularly harsh on Balaji and world's highest Test wicket-taking Muttiah Muralitharan, and Shane Watson (28 in 19 balls) added 65 runs for the fourth wicket to steady the innings and give it the impetus to finish in glory.

Faced with a modest target, the Royals made a mess of the initial part of the run-chase by losing three top order batsmen within the first seven overs before Pathan, who carted Murali for three sixes over long on, and Watson rescued them.

The Royals lost Watson when 57 runs were needed in 35 balls and then lost three more wickets, including that of Pathan in six balls, to find themselves under pressure.

Suddenly things hotted up and the Super Kings sensed a chance to win with Rajasthan needing 21 runs in the last 14 balls with Warne and Tanvir at the crease.

Makhaya Ntini bowled the penultimate over tightly before the Royals captain swung him for a four off the last ball to heighten the tension.

Needing eight off the last over, Royals leveled the score when Tanvir hit Balaji for a couple and then struck the winning hit, a pull, to bring down curtains on the 59-match tournament which has gripped the nation's interest.

In the early part of the run chase, Niraj Patel, inducted in place of injured Graeme Smith, fell for two when he dragged Manpreet Gony on to his stumps while attempting a pull shot.

Pint-sized Swapnil Asnodkar (28), unafraid to play his lofted shots, and Kamran Akmal (6) then took the score to 41 when the former drove a wide ball from Albie Morkel straight to Suresh Raina at backward point. His 20-ball essay contained five fours.

And when Akmal was run out by a direct hit from mid-on at the stumps at the non-striker's end by Makhaya Ntini in the same over to make it 42 for three, Chennai looked on top.

Akmal's dismissal brought together two big hitters -- Watson and Pathan -- and they ran well between the wickets besides looking out for boundary hits.

Pathan struck Balaji for two fours while Watson off-glided him for another to take 13 runs off the 10th over of the innings after which their score read 75 for three.

Morkel, who replaced Balaji, had the mortification of seeing Yusuf mis-hit a pull shot in the first over of Muralitharan and survive as Raina made a hash of the high catch at mid-on.

The batsman was on 13 and it proved costly as the all-rounder smashed the off-spin ace twice over long-on off successive balls to bring the 100 in 79 balls.

He was again dropped when on 33, by Manpreet Gony off his own bowling. He took full advantage of these fielding errors to pilot his side close to the finish line which they finally achieved after some heart-stopping moments.

Earlier, Super Kings owed their score mainly to an enterprising 43 by in-form one-down batsman Suresh Raina, who played only 30 balls while hitting two pulled sixes and a four.

The UP left-hander, back in the Indian one-day team, built on a decent start of 39 in 5.2 overs provided by Parthiv Patel (38 in 33 balls) and Vidyut Sivaramakrishnan (16 in 14 balls).

But Raina's dismissal in the 17th over when he threatened to cut loose derailed Chennai's plans for a more healthy total. Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni remained unbeaten with 29 off 17 balls, inclusive of two sixes.

For the Royals, Yusuf Pathan grabbed 3 for 22 in two spells while Watson accounted for the wicket of Raina.

Pathan was adjudged Man of the Match for his all-round show while Watson walked away with the Man of the Series award.
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