In an astonishing game of cricket, the Chennai Super Kings battled back from the brink of defeat to beat Kevin Pietersen's Delhi Daredevils with two balls to spare and by eight wickets.
There was little doubt who needed the points more in this game. The Daredevils were staring at the bottom of the table after an awful run of results, and Pietersen could well have done without playing a top-of-the-table CSK side, who had defeated their opponents in their last five consecutive meetings. Losing the toss was hardly the best start.
Opta Jim had already noted the bowling excellence of Ishwar Pandey:
Put into bat, the Daredevils looked reasonably comfortable at 34/0 after the first four overs. Quinton de Kock was certainly enjoying himself, hitting five boundaries in the first few overs.
A huge six at the end of the third over was a sign of a man full of confidence, but a mix-up on the very next ball saw de Kock run out. Mohit Sharma’s delivery was well played by Murali Vijay, but as de Kock came back for a third run, Vijay wasn't on the same page and left his fellow batsman stranded. Ravindra Jadeja was the grateful recipient.
Much has been expected of Pietersen during this tournament. A golden duck certainly wouldn't have formed part of his match preparations, but that's exactly what befell him, bowled by Sharma's first ball.
Kevin Pietersen out for first-ball duck in IPL match against Chennai Super Kings #SSN— Sky Sports News (@SkySportsNews) May 5, 2014
Fortunately for Pietersen, his replacement at the crease, Dinesh Karthik, was inspired.
A slow beginning to his innings gave no clue to the fireworks to come later on, and how Ben Hilfenhaus will rue dropping Karthik on the boundary at the start of the eighth over.
|Q de Kock||run out (Raina/Jadeja/Sharma)||24||16||3/2|
|M Vijay||c du Plessis b Jadeja||35||30||2/1|
|KP Pietersen||b Sharma||0||1||0/0|
|KD Karthik||c Sharma b Hilfenhaus||51||36||4/3|
|LR Shukla||c Pandey b Ashwin||0||2||0/0|
|JP Duminy||not out||28||17||5/0|
|KM Jadhav||not out||29||18||2/2|
|Extras||lb 6, w 5||11|
|Total||5 wickets, 20 overs||178|
Both batsmen were tidy if unspectacular at this stage, taking the innings along at about a run a ball.
It was toward the end of the ninth when both began to open up. First Vijay found the boundary at extra cover and then Karthik really went to town; 20 runs in just four balls including two sixes into the stands sent the crowd wild.
Just a ball after bringing up his fifty, however, he was out from a stunning catch from Sharma off the bowling of Hilfenhaus.
Things started to unravel once again as Ravichandran Ashwin had Ratan Shukla caught by Pandey for a duck, and two balls further on Vijay guided Ravindra Jadeja’s ball to Francois du Plessis at long off.
Kedar Jadhav and JP Duminy steadied the innings once again, and then the latter began to unleash, with four consecutive boundaries from Sharma’s expensive length.
Jadhav's late swashbuckling gave him two massive sixes and a four from the last three balls. It was a knock that helped the Daredevils to a reasonable 178/5 at the close of their innings.
Ahead of the game, CSK coach Stephen Fleming had surprisingly noted, per the Press Trust of India, via NDTV, that MS Dhoni‘s ability to play all forms of the game might be coming to an end:
I haven't spoken to him on this issue. He is in fine shape and if he is fit, he can continue to lead for at least good three to four years. Having said that, I don't know how long he will be playing all three formats. It's pretty hard as India have such a tight schedule.
Dhoni certainly had no initial worries as openers Brendon McCullum and Dwayne Smith started the innings in much the same way as always.
Steady and well-set at the crease with quick singles aplenty, McCullum was the first to unleash with three boundaries in the first couple of overs.
|BB McCullum||c Vijay b Shukla||32||35||5/0|
|Extras||b 4, lb 5, w2||11|
|Total||2 wickets, 19.4 overs||181|
Not to be outdone, partner Smith fired three consecutive sixes off the poor bowling of Jaydev Unadkat; 41 for no wicket off the first four overs was a fabulous way to begin the run chase.
The next seven overs consisted of only three boundaries as, remarkably, the Daredevils attack put their more celebrated opponents on the back foot.
Singles became a necessity to keep the Super Kings at somewhere near the run-rate required.
The pressure of having to pick up runs finally got to McCullum at the beginning of the 12th over. Trying to go for the big shot, he only succeeded in finding Vijay out on the boundary.
Suresh Raina began well with two quick boundaries, but it was Smith who sensed the urgency. A huge six and a four brought up his half century, and another monster hit through mid-wicket gave him his second maximum in a few balls.
Try as they might, the Daredevils attack couldn't penetrate as much as they would like. But with five overs remaining, the table-toppers still had it all to do, with 30 balls and 52 runs required.
Fourteen off the first of those overs would have disappointed Pietersen, Wayne Parnell with the wayward attack.
Pietersen knew he was on the verge of a stunning victory, as noted by IPLT20.com:
Kevin Pietersen is barking out orders to his team, he knows how important it is his team win this. 38 runs required from the last 24 balls.
Unadkat answered the rallying cry with a fabulous display of line and length. Only five conceded left CSK with it all to do, and a run-rate back up to 11 an over.
Smith wouldn't give up, and two fours and a six took his personal total to a fabulous 79 and gave his side hope of a famous victory.
In the penultimate over, things took on a familiar tone as Parnell was smashed for a boundary by Raina. But cometh the hour, the huge wicket of Smith was taken as he lofted one high but not far enough.
Dhoni stepped forward to play a last-minute captain's innings. After two dot balls from Parnell, it was 11 required from the final over for CSK to win.
Unadkat began to wilt under the pressure, and a fine six followed by two from Dhoni left his side with two runs required from three balls. It was not needed, however, as the captain smashed a boundary to seal one of the best wins of the tournament so far.
Pietersen's Daredevils are straight back into action on Wednesday against the Kolkata Knight Riders. KKR will be looking for a win to restore their own confidence after a crushing blow against the Rajasthan Royals on Monday.
After Monday's result, the Daredevils will approach the fixture with a sense of foreboding. Coming so close to upsetting the odds, only to lose at the death, will hit Pietersen and his troops hard. But they simply have to pick themselves up, dust themselves down and get on with it. Bottom of the table beckons otherwise.
Chennai face Kings XI Punjab in a mouth-watering top-of-the-table clash. Ahead by two, if CSK take this "winner-takes-all" clash, they will open up a four-point gap at the summit.