Delhi Capitals 189 for 3 (Dhawan 78, Hetmyer 42*, Stoinis 38) beat Sunrisers Hyderabad 172 for 8 (Williamson 67, Samad 33, Rabada 4-29, Stoinis 3-26) by 17 runs
The Delhi Capitals came into Qualifier-2 having won just one of their last six games, and another defeat here would have left everyone writing their campaign off as a squandered opportunity. But here they are now, in their maiden IPL final, one win away from glory.
Their performance in this Qualifier was like their season in miniature: they flew out of the blocks, then stuttered, but they kept themselves in the game and won the key moments. Sunrisers Hyderabad, who had won their last four games on the trot, began poorly - with ball and bat as well as in the field - and made up ground later on, but it wasn't quite enough.
Two key tactical moves paid rich dividends for the Capitals. They opened with Marcus Stoinis for the first time in the season, and he, along with Shikhar Dhawan, rewarded them with their best powerplay of the season. They also brought Shimron Hetmyer back into their side, and his late hitting ensured the Capitals put up a challenging total despite a significant slowdown through the second half of their innings.
Stoinis contributed heavily with the ball as well, taking two wickets in the fifth over of the Sunrisers innings, and then coming back to remove Kane Williamson just when he seemed set to pull off his second chasing masterclass in two games.
Stoinis and Dhawan set the tone
The Capitals' run of poor form coming into this game had included three games where they had lost by 59, 88 and 57 runs. They didn't want to be chasing again, and the toss went in their favour. And at one point it seemed as if everything would go in their favour.
Sandeep Sharma and Jason Holder kept the Capitals' openers to just 11 from the first two overs, and the pressure produced a chance in the third over. Sandeep had bowled inswing to Stoinis with a 5-4 leg-side field, initially achieving an immaculate line, and an attempt to break the shackles led Stoinis to hit in the air, within range of Holder stationed at an unconventional short mid-on, only for the ball to burst out of his outstretched right hand.
Then Sandeep lost his line, strayed too straight, and conceded back-to-back boundaries either side of deep square leg. Stoinis then went after Holder and smacked three fours and a six in the fourth over. Dhawan joined in the fun too, picking up three fours - one of them courtesy a misfield at short fine leg from T Natarajan - and a slog-swept six in the next two overs, and the Capitals ended up with not just their most productive powerplay of the season, but also only their third wicketless one, ending it 65 for 0.
See off Rashid, feast on Nadeem, slow down at the finish
Rashid Khan hadn't bowled a single powerplay over this season, coming into this game, and he didn't bowl one here either. Perhaps it was a missed opportunity from the Sunrisers, who instead used the already smarting Sandeep and the left-arm spinner Shahbaz Nadeem in the fifth and sixth over.
Rashid came on immediately after the powerplay, and struck in his second over, bowling Stoinis with a quick legbreak that ripped past the closed face of his bat. But while he continued to test the batsmen, they didn't look to go after him, and he ended his four overs with figures of 1 for 26.
The Capitals wouldn't have minded that, given their start, and they made up against the unfortunate Nadeem, whom the Sunrisers ostensibly used to target the right-handed Stoinis and Shreyas Iyer, but who ended up running into the left-handed Dhawan instead. By the time he bowled his fourth over, Hetmyer had replaced Iyer and there were two left-handers at the crease, but the Sunrisers didn't have a sixth bowling option to turn to. Nadeem struggled for control right through, and he finished with figures of 4-0-48-0, with Dhawan tonking him for 29 off 14 balls.
At the 16-over mark, the Capitals were 145 for 2, and 200 seemed on the cards when Natarajan and Holder conceded a combined 31 from the 17th and 18th overs, with Hetmyer rampaging his way to 34 off 15. But Sandeep and Natarajan came back strongly in the last two overs largely by nagging away in the blockhole, with the left-armer Natarajan more or less nailing six yorkers in the final over. Only 13 came off the last two, and no boundaries. The Capitals had made 102 in their first 10 overs, but only 87 in their last 10.
Rabada and Stoinis strike early
By the end of the powerplay, the Sunrisers seemed almost out of the contest. Kagiso Rabada struck with his first ball, a full inswinger that moved late, to bowl David Warner off his pads, and Marcus Stoinis struck twice in his first over - the fifth of the innings - to remove Priyam Garg and Manish Pandey after a brief flurry of boundaries from the second-wicket pair.
At the six-over mark, the Sunrisers were 49 for 3, already needing more than 10 an over. This was a far more challenging task than the one Williamson and Holder had pulled off against Royal Challengers Bangalore in the Eliminator.
Williamson's last stand
But the game wasn't over yet, not as long as Williamson was in the middle. He kept finding ways to hit boundaries, picking up minor errors in line or length and creating scoring opportunities with his footwork. He shoveled Rabada over midwicket after stepping across his stumps, hit Axar Patel and Praveen Dubey for straight sixes after stepping out to them, and helped Stoinis over backward square leg with an impudent flick over his shoulder.
The departure of Holder in the 12th over - when the equation was 100 from 50 balls - didn't stop the Sunrisers either, with Williamson now joined by Abdul Samad, who tore into Anrich Nortje in the 15th over, pulling him for a disdainful six before cashing in on width to pick up back-to-back fours. With 10 coming off the next over from R Ashwin, the Sunrisers needed 51 from 24.
Then Stoinis came back, and made Williamson lose his shape for once, with a full, wide slower ball that he carved into the hands of deep cover. The game wasn't completely safe yet, as Rashid Khan showed with a six and a four off Ashwin in the 18th over to bring the task down to 30 off 12. But the batsmen simply had to keep swinging, and after another six from Samad - off a borderline high full-toss - the big hits kept ending up as catches on the boundary, with Rabada picking up three such wickets in the 19th over to wrench the Purple Cap off Jasprit Bumrah.
The eventual winner of that contest will be known on Tuesday.