Mumbia Indians (195/5) did the impossible on Sunday, defeating Rajasthan Royals (189/4) by five wickets to book the IPL's final play-off ticket, after going winless for the first part of the competition in the United Arab Emirates.
Indians came back from an unwinnable position, taking advantage of an epic collapse from Rajasthan's bowlers and riding a sensational Corey Anderson to the win.
Royals' batsmen got to work first, knowing they needed to set a large target to keep their advantage over Indians in net run rate.
|Shane Watson||c Kieron Pollard b Harbhajan Singh||8||18||44.44||1||0|
|Sanju Samson||c Harbhajan Singh b Shreyas Gopal||74||47||157.44||7||3|
|Karun Nair||c Lendl Simmons b Jasprit Bumrah||50||27||185.18||7||2|
|Brad Hodge||NOT OUT||29||16||181.25||2||1|
|James Faulkner||c Corey Anderson b Kieron Pollard||23||12||191.66||0||3|
|Kevon Cooper||NOT OUT||0||0||0.00||0||0|
|EXTRAS||(w 3, lb 2)||5|
|TOTAL||(4 wickets; 20 overs)||189|
Their first few overs weren't an overwhelming success, however, as Jasprit Bumrah (four overs, 30 runs, one wicket) and Pragyan Oja (four overs, 31 runs) fed off a vocal home crowd looking for the play-offs.
Sanju Samson (74 runs from 47 balls) started hitting his groove as the match went on, finding the boundaries on multiple occasions and putting more and more pressure on Mumbai's bowlers. The difference between Rajasthan's first and last 10 overs was stunning, as shared by Freddie Wilde:
The early dismissal of Shane Watson could have spelled trouble, but a great performance from young Karun Nair (50 runs from 27 balls) more than made up for Watson's slip, with the situation ever improving for Rajasthan as the match wore on.
Harbhajan Singh (four overs, 43 runs, one wicket) simply couldn't play at the level his team required him to, and as Brad Hodge and James Faulkner added 52 more runs at the end of the innings, the situation looked bleak for Mumbai.
Their outlook didn't improve following early dismissals for Lendl Simmons and Michael Hussey, with Mumbai now taking all kinds of risks in a desperate attemt to boost their net run rate.
|Lendl Simmons||c James Faulkner b Dhawal Kulkarni||12||8||150.00||3||0|
|Michael Hussey||b Kevon Cooper||22||11||200.00||1||2|
|Corey Anderson||NOT OUT||95||44||215.90||9||6|
|Kieron Pollard||c Brad Hodge b Kevon Cooper||7||3||233.33||0||1|
|Rohit Sharma||c Karun Nair b Dhawal Kulkarni||16||11||145.45||1||1|
|Ambati Rayudu||run out (Karun Nair)||30||10||300.00||5||1|
|Aditya Tare||NOT OUT||6||1||600.00||0||1|
|EXTRAS||(w 4, lb 3)||7|
|TOTAL||(5 wickets; 14.4 overs)||195|
Kieron Pollard (seven runs from three balls) started strong but ran into a sneaky slow ball from West Indies teammate Kevon Cooper (four overs, 38 runs, two wickets), and his high shot was caught by Hodge. Without their powerful right-hander, Indians effectively looked dead in the water.
The fans seemed to lose faith as the middle of the innings approached, but Corey Anderson (99 runs from 44 balls not out) refused to give up. Ramesh Srivats couldn't help but take a dig at his team:
Corey Anderson is playing so well that Mumbai will probably trade him off to some other team next season.— Ramesh Srivats (@rameshsrivats) May 25, 2014
Rajasthan's bowlers, who had been phenomenal for much of the early overs, suddenly seemed to collapse, as Anderson and Ambati Raduyu (30 from 10) started hitting boundary after boundary.
Watson re-introduced himself for an over and gave up three consecutive fours, as things truly started spiraling out of control. What had once looked like an easy win for Royals suddenly turned into a frantic chase for Mumbai, as every single delivery seemed to result in either four or six.
Alternative cricket was stunned:
What's Shane Watson doing today? Plays out a maiden in the PowerPlay, reactive field placings, bowling absolute pies! #IPL— Alternative Cricket (@AltCricket) May 25, 2014
Needing nine from the last two deliveries, Anderson would hit a single and Raduyu went for six. One final ball would determine who would go to the play-offs, with a boundary needed to give Indians the advantage in net run rate.
Aditya Tare faced Faulkner, and in a storybook ending, he smashed it for six, sending fans and teammates into a frenzy as Mumbai completed not only the chase, but one of the greatest comebacks in IPL history.
Speaking to ESPN Cricinfo, Hussey couldn't believe what had just happened:
I've played a fair bit of cricket but I've never been involved with something like this. We're through to the playoffs. Wasn't sure if we could do this but this game continues to bemuse everyone.
Kieron Pollard looked back on the first part of the competition and how unlikely Mumbai's play-off berth had seemed at the time:
Fantastic. Coming out of Dubai no one thought it was possible. Even at half-time we knew it was going to be difficult. Corey coming into this game was amazing. Ambati as well. We thought it was working against us. But we have a never say die and soon as we won a couple of games in a row, words can't describe that
Mumbai can rejoice following their big win, but those celebrations will have to be brief, as the team will now face Chennai Super Kings in the Eliminator match on Wednesday. The winner of that match will take on the loser of the First Qualifier for a ticket to the IPL play-off final, so the stakes will be high.
A close win like this will give the team plenty of momentum moving forward, but Super Kings were only knocked out of the top two of the IPL standings in the last week of competition, and along with Kings Xi Punjab, they've had the look of possible champions all season.
Indians will have to be at their best, but if Anderson can repeat Sunday's heroics, there's no reason the team can't pull off another miraculous upset in the Eliminator.