In a season of thrilling finishes, the IPL 2023 final was the cherry on top. Here's how the game - played over three days! - ebbed and flowed, as seen on social media.
There was no rain in the evening on Monday, and the IPL final began on time. But not before Ravi Shastri donned the hat of a boxing announcer. If his call on the mic did not get the crowd going, MS Dhoni winning the toss definitely did. There were also murmurs that Dhoni used a new strategy for this final toss - flipping the coin with his left hand!
There was great bonhomie between the two captains at the toss. Chennai Super Kings won it, and chose to bowl. And they very nearly had the perfect start when Shubman Gill, then on 3, flicked Tushar Deshpande straight to Deepak Chahar. But...
Gill survived, and along with Wriddhiman Saha, counter-attacked. They smashed 16 and 14 in back-to-back overs. Against Mumbai Indians, Gill was dropped early and scored 129. CSK could have had the same fate, but the master's sharp work ensured it didn't happen.
Wow ! One can change bank notes from bank but behind the wickets one cannot change MS Dhoni ! Nahi badal sakte .. As fast as ever MS Dhoni.— Virender Sehwag (@virendersehwag) May 29, 2023
Watching the final from our ESPNcricinfo office in Mumbai, Sanjay Manjrekar considered that one of Dhoni's best stumpings.
CSK, though, could not afford to rest easy. Not while Saha - a former IPL final century-maker (from 2014) - was still hitting it well. But he was soon gone for 54 and wicket-taker Chahar could afford to wear a smile.
Every team has an unsung hero. For Gujarat it is Saha— Cricketwallah (@cricketwallah) May 29, 2023
Gujarat Titans seemed to lose momentum, more so when the No. 3, B Sai Sudharsan, had a slow start. He made only 10 in his first 12 balls and was on 20 off 17. He was retired out in Qualifier 2, if you remember, and some wanted it done again.
It's time for this to happen again, retired out Sai Sudharsan. #IPL2023Final— Tom Moody (@TomMoodyCricket) May 29, 2023
Sudharsan, though, had other ideas. He smacked Ravindra Jadeja for 6 and 4 to get ahead on his strike rate, then tore into Matheesha Pathirana and Maheesh Theekshana. By the time he had faced his 33rd ball, Sudharsan had reached his fifty.
Moments later, he initiated a change in Titans' gears with a massive over off Deshpande, and got fist-bump after fist-bump from Hardik Pandya in the middle.
His innings had the best of the best tweeting, more so after back-to-back sixes in the 20th over took him into the 90s. The fairy tale wasn't to be, though, as he fell for 96, but in the context of the game, this was as close to perfection as it could get.
Sai Sudarshan never played an ipl inning with 150+ strike rate. What an occasion to do so— Irfan Pathan (@IrfanPathan) May 29, 2023
Sai Sudharsan pleaseeeee— Ian Raphael Bishop (@irbishi) May 29, 2023
After Sudharsan's dismissal, Titans could not add too many more, but CSK still had to get 215 - the highest target set in IPL final history. Some were worried for CSK, others were enjoying the afterglow of that Sudharsan innings, while others felt Titans were big favourites.
Very well played in ipl final.Sai Sudharan.— Kamran Akmal (@KamiAkmal23) May 29, 2023
The chase had barely started when the storm arrived, as promised. The DLS charts were quickly out as the groundstaff began their work in protecting the playing area.
The first inspection was postponed. Then the second inspection. Provided enough time for some Thala introspection. And for some jokes.
The support @msdhoni has and the amount of hearts he has won is insane! Shows the true character of the phenomenal person he is ! Hope he plays the next season too!— Angelo Mathews (@Angelo69Mathews) May 29, 2023
At 11.41pm, there was news of a 00.10am restart. The game that was supposed to end on May 28 was now touching May 30. When it was announced a 15-over chase was going to take place, CSK were the happier side because a washout would have given Titans the title, since they had finished higher than CSK (No. 1 and No. 2) on the points table after the league stage.
They deserved all the plaudits yesterday, but the ground staff have erred very badly today while peeling off the covers. There's no way play should be held up for this long for a 20-minute shower.— Shashank Kishore (@captainshanky) May 29, 2023
When the game began, again, in four overs, CSK touched 52 for no loss with Devon Conway leading the charge. Former CSK man Harbhajan Singh thought his former team had the edge at the time...
... but Noor Ahmad's wicket of Ruturaj Gaikwad and Conway in one over put CSK on the back foot. Noor, who first made IPL history as the youngest participant at the auction - aged 14 in 2019 - had now put Titans in front. His returned figures of 3 for 17 with zero boundaries in three overs - a great return for Titans on an INR 30 lakh investment (Sudharsan, incidentally, had gone for INR 20 lakh).
Brilliantly bowled under pressure. Great spell @noor_ahmad_15— Robin Aiyuda Uthappa (@robbieuthappa) May 29, 2023
But Ajinkya Rahane walked out and crunched two sixes to keep CSK in touch of the asking rate. He helped CSK reach 100 for 2 in 9.1 overs, and soon enough, the equation was down to 59 in 30 balls.
The Titans camp suddenly appeared more nervous. Ashish Nehra, the Titans coach, was passing messages to David Miller on the boundary line. But it was a former CSK man who struck for Titans. Mohit Sharma, fresh off a five-for against Mumbai Indians, had the dangerous Rahane for a 13-ball 27. Shivam Dube's lack of clean hits may have made Rahane take the risky route.
That brought in Ambati Rayudu, who on Sunday afternoon had announced his retirement from the IPL after the final.
Rayudu had the golden chance to finish his IPL career in magnificent style. But with the asking rate, he needed Dube to find the sweet spot. And Dube did just that in Rashid's last two balls of the night. Six. Followed by another six. And CSK were left needing 39 in three overs. Rashid's economy of 14.33 was his poorest in T20s (min. three overs)
Rayudu's six off the first ball of the 13th over made it a hat-trick of sixes for CSK. Suddenly, ESPNcricinfo's Forecaster had CSK as favourites, and when Rayudu struck another ten runs off the next two deliveries, it produced a spell of 28 runs in only five balls. All the pressure was on the Titans and Rayudu was on the verge of a dream finish.
19 (8) - U turn lelo Rayudu— Rajasthan Royals (@rajasthanroyals) May 29, 2023
Congratulations on a fantastic IPL career.
Who would have thought the power would come from Rahane and Rayudu! The power of keeping faith! Fabulous cameos— Harsha Bhogle (@bhogleharsha) May 29, 2023
But Mohit salvaged his over with back-to-back wickets. Rayudu fell for an eight-ball 19 and Dhoni's thunderous entry lasted only one ball. Was that the last of Dhoni in the IPL as a player? There was not enough time to process it as Titans once again grabbed the momentum.
— Kate Cross (@katecross16) May 29, 2023
Heartbroken Dhoni's fairytale with Shastri on comms— Ahmed Raza (@ahmedrazauae) May 29, 2023
Shami conceded eight in a nervy penultimate over, leaving Mohit to defend 13 off six. Up against him were Jadeja and Dube. And the prayers of a million CSK fans.
Mohit started with three yorkers and only two runs. The fourth ball was a low full toss but Dube couldn't hit it away. With ten needed off two, Titans were one good ball away from successfully defending their title.
But then Mohit missed the yorker and Jadeja deposited him over his head and into the advertising hoardings. And at 1.32am in the morning, the whole season came down to Mohit needing to defend three in one ball against Jadeja.
Dramatic.— Mpumelelo Mbangwa (@mmbangwa) May 29, 2023
And then... Jadeja swiped a low full toss for four to the fine-leg boundary, and the scenes were absolutely unbelievable. The man from Gujarat had conquered Ahmedabad wearing the CSK yellow, sending the crowd into delirium, and finished his celebrations by jumping into Dhoni's arms.
Jadeja had much of his season of being cheered off the field when out so Dhoni could walk out. On the big night, he brought CSK home, breaking Titans hearts and giving the CSK faithful a fifth IPL title.
Sir jadeja— Mohammad Kaif (@MohammadKaif) May 29, 2023
HOLY MOLY #IPL— Chris Lynn (@lynny50) May 29, 2023
Yes Please!! What a Final! Well done @ChennaiIPL— Albie Morkel (@albiemorkel) May 29, 2023
A former CSK man was also delighted. On TV, Deepak Chahar revealed that Rayudu had said "I'll win the final" all season. Reactions from everywhere poured in. With three overs to go, the TV cameras showed a CSK fan crying in disappointment. After the game, the same cameras showed her celebrating while shedding tears of joy.
Some former cricketers reminded us that it takes two good teams to make one great game of cricket. A decade-old tweet from Dhoni also resurfaced. Andrew Balbirnie watched it on the small screen.
After the game, Rayudu dedicated his sixth IPL title - between Mumbai Indians and CSK - to his family. Dwayne Bravo ensured he had a friendly jibe at Kieron Pollard.
And at 3.02am, the country cheered as they got the answer thet were waiting all night for. Was Dhoni coming back? Of course he was. What a quote to wrap up the season. What a game to bid goodbye to IPL 2023. See you next year, Dhoni. See you next year, IPL.