Entrusted with bowling the final over after having a taken a beating previously, Lasith Malinga redeemed himself in spectacular fashion to defend eight runs and help Mumbai Indians claim their fourth IPL title in Hyderabad, India.
Malinga hadn’t looked his best until that point. He was accurate in his first over, conceding only seven runs.
But he lost his radar thereafter, giving away 15 runs in his second over, and 20 in his third.
That third over was also the 16th of the match, and it seemed to have swung the game in Chennai Super King’s favour.
Shane Watson, who scored 80 off 59 balls, was especially severe on Malinga whenever the veteran missed his length, scoring six boundaries off him, including one six.
Mumbai, though, kept the fight on and a stunning penultimate over from Jasprit Bumrah left Chennai with nine to get from the last.
Rohit Sharma’s options were Hardik Pandya and Malinga. He decided to back the experienced man. And it proved to be a brilliant decision.
Malinga consistently hit the blockhole, at pace, to leave Chennai requiring two from the final ball.
He then slipped in a brave slower one to trap Shardul Thakur lbw and seal the game for Mumbai.
Explaining his decision to bowl Malinga in the final over, Rohit said: “At that stage, I wanted to back experience, someone who’s been in that situation before. Malinga has been in that situation a million times, bowling those last overs, defending five runs, 10 runs, whatever it is. So we backed him to do that.”
“Malinga has been one of the finest T20 players that we’ve seen. For Mumbai, he’s done it for so many years, so we knew that he could give us a chance of winning the game.”
Kieron Pollard, whose 25-ball 41 not out lifted Mumbai to a defendable total, said that Malinga himself was keen to take on the challenge of bowling the last over.
“Even Mali wanted it, and he showed why he’s a legend, he showed why he has the most wickets in the IPL. That is when guys need to deliver and that was a magnificent slower ball in the end.”
That expert use of the slower ball to deceive Thakur could probably go down as the moment that defined the IPL final.
Malinga’s thinking behind taking that option was that Mumbai needed a wicket to seal the deal, and he felt that was his best wicket-taking option at that moment.
“If I had conceded one run, the match would’ve been tied and I knew if I got a wicket, we could win,” Malinga said.
“So, I decided to go for the wicket-taking option and today, it turned out to be a success,” he added.
Malinga will now train for the upcoming ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2019, where he will lead Sri Lanka’s fast bowling attack. (ICC)