Manish Pandey’s (top left) 94 left a telling blow in the final against Kings XI Punjab © IANS & PTI
If there is one thing that was proven in the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2014, it is that no score is safe. While Glenn Maxwell’s pyrotechnics at the start of IPL 7 helped Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) chase down a mammoth 205 against Chennai Super Kings (CSK), what happened at the end of IPL 7 was even more astounding. Shiamak Unwalla looks at the four innings that might well have changed T20 chases.
Yusuf Pathan’s blitz against Sunrisers Hyderabad:
Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) were chasing 160 to win. That they would get there was hardly doubted given the form of their batting line-up. However, they had a faint chance of finishing in the top two of IPL 7. In order to do that, they had to chase 160 in less than 15 overs. Gautam Gambhir and Manish Pandey were dismissed with just 55 on the board in 7.3 overs. Yusuf, who had touched 40 just once in the tournament till that point, walked out to the middle with a herculean task ahead of him. What followed was belligerence of the highest order. After being dropped off the very first ball he faced, Yusuf Pathan clobbered Karn Sharma and company for 72 runs in just 22 balls with five fours and seven sixes. His incredible strike rate of 327 completely blew SRH away, and propelled KKR to the second spot.
Corey Anderson’s whirlwind against Rajasthan Royals:
With just 170 runs in 11 games, Corey Anderson was in danger of being known as just another hyped overseas player who failed to deliver. However, with Mumbai in a position where only a huge win would help them to qualify, they chose to go on reputation rather than recent form. It was a decision that the Mumbai Indians management will be proud of. Very few people thought that Mumbai had a chance at qualifying. After RR raced to 189 on the back of Sanju Samson’s 47-ball 74 and Karun Nair’s 50 from 27 deliveries, fewer still would have expected MI to chase 190 in 14.3 overs. After a few fireworks at the top, Lendl Simmons was out early in MI’s chase. That brought in Corey Anderson — the man with the record for fastest ODI hundred of all time. He started in ominous fashion, hitting a six and a four off his first two deliveries. That proved to be the foreshadowing of an innings of such brutal force, Rajasthan were knocked clean off their fourth spot. An unbeaten 95 off 44 balls with nine fours and six sixes meant that MI were able to reach exactly 189 in 14.3 overs. With a boundary needed off the next ball — the first one that Aditya Tare was going to face — James Faulkner lost the plot and bowled a waist-high full toss. The rest, as they say, is history.
Suresh Raina’s mind numbing effort against Kings XI Punjab:
When Yusuf hit the fastest fifty in all of IPL cricket, only the most courageous of gamblers would have expected a similar innings barely a week later. Virender Sehwag turned back the clock to hit 122 off only 58 balls with 12 fours and eight sixes. Memories of the Multan cricket ground, the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) and Brabourne stadium came flooding back as Sehwag belted every bowler he faced out of the park. Chennai Super Kings (CSK) started on the worst possible note, as Faf du Plessis was out for a golden duck. Suresh Raina made his way to the middle and showed exactly why he is the leading run-scorer in all IPL. Yusuf had got to his fifty in 15 balls, but Raina took 16. However, while Yusuf was dismissed for 72 from 22, Raina faced 25 balls to hit 87, with as many boundaries as Sehwag, and only two sixes less. When he was dismissed, run out as a result of poor calling, CSK had galloped to 100 in merely six overs. That CSK lost from there was no fault whatsoever of Raina’s. His teammates let him down, as they were able to get only 102 from the remaining 14 overs. While Raina’s knock came in a losing cause, there is no doubt that if he had stayed till the end, CSK could have well got to even 300! That is a frightening notion indeed for a bowler.
Manish Pandey’s bombardment of Kings XI Punjab:
The Kings XI Punjab bowlers were put to the sword twice in two games, first by Raina’s brilliance, and then by a combination of Gautam Gambhir, Manish Pandey, Yusuf Pathan, and — of all people — Piyush Chawla. Chasing exactly 200 to win, KKR lost their star batsman and Orange Cap holder Robin Uthappa for just five. Gautam Gambhir looked good for his 23, but was unable to get a big score. It was left to Manish Pandey, who had promised much but delivered little up to that point, to play the innings of the final — Wriddhiman Saha must get a mention here, but unfortunately he was on the losing side. Pandey’s innings was both solid and aggressive. A feature of the knock was that every time a wicket fell, he took on the bowlers even more so that KXIP was never able to sustain pressure. When he was finally dismissed just six short of what would have been an outstanding century, KKR needed only 21 runs in three overs. That their saviour in the end was neither Suryakumar Yadav nor Shakib al Hasan but Piyush Chawla, made for an even more thrilling finish. Pandey hit seven fours and six sixes in his 50-ball innings.
In each of these innings, the batsman took on the best bowler of the opposition side, thereby completely throwing off the others. Yusuf hit both Karn Sharma and Dale Steyn for some big sixes; Anderson took Pravin Tambe and James Faulkner for plenty; Raina completely thrashed Mitchell Johnson and Sandeep Sharma; Johnson, along with Karanveer Singh, then bore the brunt of Pandey’s knock again in the final. Another common factor in each innings was the ability to target specific bowlers and specific areas. While midwicket was more or less the favoured area, each batsman made sure the spinners were never allowed to settle — Raina’s knock is the exception since he batted for only six overs, each of which was bowled by a pacer — as the only bowler to emerge unscathed from all the assaults was KXIP’s emerging player of the tournament Akshar Patel. We may be living in a terrible new age where no total can ever hope to be safe. Bowlers the world over will need to evolve and evolve quickly, as batsmen get more and more audacious. The times, they are a-changing.
(Shiamak Unwalla is a reporter with Cricket Country. He is a self-confessed Sci-Fi geek and Cricket fanatic who likes to pass his free time by reading books, watching TV shows, and eating food. Sometimes all at the same time. You can follow him on twitter at @ShiamakUnwalla)