CHENNAI // While the fierce glare of 40,000-plus passionate Chennai Super Kings fans focused sharply on some of the biggest names in the game, a 27 year old largely unknown journeyman cricketer played the innings of his life to give the Kolkata Knight Riders their maiden Indian Premier League title.
MS Dhoni's team did almost everything right in the first half of the game, putting 190 on the board after choosing to bat on a true pitch at the MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai.
No team had successfully chased anything in excess of 170 against Chennai in their own backyard, and it took a special effort from Manvinder Bisla, who did not even have a Ranji Trophy team to play for last season, to ensure that history was made.
When the Knight Riders got home, with five wickets and two balls to spare, the tournament got its fitting finale.
Conventional cricketing wisdom dictates that a strong start is a prerequisite to chasing big totals in high-pressure games.
When Gautam Gambhir, the Kolkata captain and a run-chase expert, had his stumps rearranged by Ben Hilfenhaus off only the sixth ball of the innings, the deafening roar of "CSK! CSK!" that reverberated around the stands told you that the home fans thought their team were well on the way to completing a hat-trick of wins.
The Super Kings, who have made a habit of lifting their game just when it is needed, suffered a rare reverse.
Standing tall at the crease and targeting the gaps on the leg side, Bisla showed that timing was his biggest ally, comfortably lifting the off-spinner R Ashwin into the stands over long-on twice in the sixth over. Content to watch his junior partner inflict the damage, Jacques Kallis bedded down, preparing to keep his end going as the runs flowed from Bisla's bat.
Dwayne Bravo made the mistake of giving Bisla too much width, and the scything bat sent the ball high and wide over cover.
When Bravo overcompensated and drifted on to the pads, out came the flick, dismissing the ball over square-leg with the most elegant of swishes.
While Bisla went over the top, Kallis drilled the ball through the infield, picking off the safe boundaries in a 136-run partnership that ensured the Knight Riders were constantly ahead of the asking rate.
When Bisla fell for 89 off only 48 balls, there was still plenty of batting to come, and Kallis shifted gears efficiently to take on the bowling.
Even with their bowlers losing the plot, and being unable to exert any sort of control over the game, Chennai did not quit.
Laxmi Ratan Shukla holed out in the deep, Yusuf Pathan hit Ashwin miles up in the air, and a game that was dead in the water threatened to come back to life.
With 20 needed from 12 balls, Hilfenhaus raised the crowd's hopes, conceding only four runs off the first five balls of the penultimate over, accounting for Kallis (69) in the process.
A no ball, a deft scoop from Shakib Al Hasan and all that was left was for Manoj Tiwary to apply the finishing touches.
As the see-saw game drew to a close, Chennai's effort to get to 190 seemed a distant dream. M Vijay (42) and Mike Hussey (56) laid the perfect platform for Suresh Raina to express himself, and he did not disappoint, muscling his way to 73 and pushing his tournament tally past 400 for the fifth time in as many tournaments. On the day, though, it would not be enough.
Anand Vasu is managing editor of Wisden India.
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