The franchise was making a comeback to the Indian Premier League after serving a two-year suspension. The team had to forgo playing home matches at their favoured venue after just one game because of off-field issues in the city. The squad was criticised from the auction to the early stages of the tournament for being filled with veterans.
But on May 27, 2018, Chennai Super Kings completed a fairytale comeback, clinching their third IPL title in a season where MS Dhoni showed the world he can still work his magic as captain and as batsman.
Reinstated into the IPL after a two-year ban, CSK outplayed Sunrisers Hyderabad by eight wickets. The Super Kings had already beaten the Kane Willamson-led side four times in as many games that season.
In the final, Shane Watson overcame a painfully slow start to single-handedly hammer a star-studded bowling lineup into submission. His unbeaten 57-ball 117 was an innings that was barely believable for those watching: he played out a maiden over to start the run-chase and went to play 10 straight dot balls as Bhuvneshwar Kumar started off brilliantly. The Aussie looked clueless.
But what followed was mayhem from the blade of Watson.
The tournament that started with 34-year-old Dwayne Bravo playing a blinder and 33-year-old Kedar Jadhav finishing the match off on one leg with a torn hamstring when defeat seemed imminent at the Wankhede, ended with Watson, unable to run for most of his innings, finishing with just the second century scored in the history of IPL finals.
Watson smashed 11 fours and eight sixes en route to his second hundred of the season as CSK chased SRH’s 178 in 18.3 overs. Kane Willamson (47 off 36) and Yusuf Pathan (45 not out off 25) were the key contributors in the SRH innings. Watson shared a 117-run partnership with Suresh Raina (32 off 24) for the second wicket, ensuring a smooth chase for CSK.
The MS Dhoni-led side were playing their seventh IPL final and their stellar campaign ended with a record-equalling third title back then. Mumbai Indians hold the record now with four titles in the tournament after their win in 2019.
The final will forever be remembered for Watson’s innings but earlier, Lungi Ngidi played a stellar role with the ball too as CSK won their famous third title.
Here are the highlights from the IPL 2018 final at Wankhede Stadium:
In the post-match presentation, coach Stephen Fleming and captain MS Dhoni spoke about how experience came to the fore for CSK. (Dhoni’s interview starts at the 28-min mark):
Man of the match Shane Watson was all praise for MS Dhoni:
And finally, Suresh Raina dedicating the win to the fans in Chennai: