Chennai Super Kings (160/6) seemed to be cruising to an easy win over Mumbai Indians (157/6) on Saturday before a late rally led by Lasith Malinga turned the chase into a thrilling ride, setting up a final over in which the inevitable MS Dhoni needed to score 11.
Four balls later, the veteran captain had given his team a four-wicket win, in large part thanks to a six and a four in his last two shots, taking advantage of a struggling Kieron Pollard, who gave up 42 total runs and ended up with an economy rate of 16.80.
The win halts a run of consecutive victories from the defending champions and brings Chennai on level points with Kings XI Punjab at the top of the 2014 IPL standings.
Mumbai came into this match having win 10 straight at home, and 97 runs off the first three batsmen seemed to be the kind of start Indians were looking for as they took on one of the top teams in this year's tournament.
|Mumbai Indians (157/6)|
|Lendl Simmons||c Francois du Plessis b Ravichandran Ashwin||38||38||100.00||3||2|
|CM Gautam||c Brendon McCullum b Samuel Badree||9||8||112.50||2||0|
|Ambati Rayudu||c Ravindra Jadeja b Mohit Sharma||59||43||137.20||2||4|
|Rohit Sharma||c Suresh Raina b Ravichandran Ashwin||19||19||100.00||1||0|
|Kieron Pollard||c Suresh Raina b Ravichandran Ashwin||0||1||0.00||0||0|
|Corey Anderson||NOT OUT||18||6||300.00||0||2|
|Aditya Tare||c Francois du Plessis b Ishwar Pandey||9||5||180.00||2||0|
|TOTAL||(6 wickets; 20 overs)||157|
Lendl Simmons 38 in 38 was impressive, but Ambati Rayudu really seemed to set the tone with 59 runs on 43 balls. The batting machine would soon stop, however.
Rohit Sharma was held to 19 runs in 19 balls before Kieron Pollard was dismissed on the very first ball he faced, and while Corey Anderson was able to add 18 not out, a target of 157 seemed to be rather on the low end of the scale for Super Kings.
Ravichandran Ashwin took three wickets while Mohit Sharma and Samuel Badree also put in good performances bowling, but as shared by Freddie Wilde, it was Chennai's fielding that deserved most of the credit, severely limiting Mumbai as they went looking for runs:
Dwayne Smith's 57 runs on 51 balls was about the best start Chennai could have hoped for when it was their turn to bat, but when Brendon McCullum was controversially dismissed, the machine started to sputter. Freddie Wilde thought the decision was "interesting":
This seemed to turn the tide in the match. Mumbai's bowling started taking over, limiting Francois du Plessis to 31 off 24 balls and containing Dhoni early. Ravindra Jadeja and Mithun Manhas would be dismissed with single-digit runs, as the chase seemed to gradually fall apart.
|Chennai Super Kings (160/6)|
|Dwayne Smith||c Lendl Simmons b Praveen Kumar||57||51||111.76||5||3|
|Brendon McCullum||lbw Praveen Kumar||13||11||118.18||1||1|
|Suresh Raina||st CM Gautam b Kieron Pollard||19||11||172.72||3||0|
|Francois du Plessis||b Lasith Malinga||31||24||129.16||2||1|
|MS Dhoni||NOT OUT||22||12||183.33||1||1|
|Ravindra Jadeja||b Lasith Malinga||6||7||85.71||1||0|
|Mithun Manhas||run out (Praveen Kumar)||1||1||100.00||0||0|
|Ravichandran Ashwin||NOT OUT||0||0||0.00||0||0|
|EXTRAS||(w 5, b 1, lb 5)||11|
|TOTAL||(6 wickets; 19.3 overs)||160|
What had once looked like a routine win turned into a thrilling final over, with Chennai needing 11 runs and the inevitable Dhoni stepping up. Wilde had seen this film before:
And after three runs off the first two deliveries, that chant turned into this one:
Dhoni did what he always does, hitting a six deep midwicket before taking a short delivery and turning it into four, gifting his team the win.
Speaking after the match, the match winner told ESPN Cricinfo he thought the dew had an impact on the batting as he praised the pitch, saying "it was fantastic to bat on, but the ball stopped a bit early on and became easier for CSK with the dew."
He also praised his opener Smith for "batting more patiently, recognising his strong areas and capitalising on them" while also elaborating on Mumbai's decision to playing just one spinner, as he thought Indians "misread the wicket."
Mumbai's phenomenal home streak finally came to an end, but despite their horrible start to the tournament, they only trail Sunrisers Hyderabad by two points for the IPL's final play-off spot.
Both teams will face off in their next match, and with Mumbai's deep and explosive group of batsmen and Hyderabad's emphasis on solid bowling, a clash in styles could lead to one of the top matches we will see in IPL competition this season.
Those explosive batsmen could add to Mumbai's net run rate in a hurry, and Sunrisers' batsmen will have to be up to speed to match Mumbai's unit if they are to have any hope of keeping their spot in the top four.
Chennai will take on third-ranked Rajasthan Royals next, with the gap between both teams being four points. Chennai and Punjab have been the two best teams in competition by a long shot in 2014, and if Smith, McCullum and Dhoni can keep up their current pace, Royals shouldn't give them too many problems as they start gearing up for the play-offs.
All statistics used are courtesy of ESPN Cricinfo, unless stated otherwise.
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