In its fifth season now, the Indian Premier League has quickly climbed to the top of the ‘international domestic competition’ ladder- and is providing ample proof of why it is the most-watched competition in the world.
IPL 2012, which began with a whimper- where Mumbai beat Chennai in possibly the most boring manner, and then Delhi beat Kolkata in a rain-curtailed match- is now a record breaker in terms of close finishes and nail-biting moments, and there’s still a good 20-odd games to go. Almost every second night, there seems to be yet another last-ball finish- and at this rate, Miandad’s last-ball classic will no more be talked about in hushed tones. Just like the 80s and 90s were witness to games that seldom saw scores above 250, until the turn of the century- this decade has brought with it a whole new brand of fearless, raw, prehistoric cricket that has redefined the meaning of a close result.
Here is the list (part 1 of 2) of instant classics that have not only provided Indian families with an exciting alternative to saas-bahu operas, but have also included some good, solid, classy cricketing skills. In the process, there have been heroes, and there have been scarred players that may never want to bat or bowl in the last over again.
Deccan Chargers v/s Mumbai Indians
April 9th, 2012
After a disastrous chase against Pune Warriors that had them collapse to a score of 100, Mumbai Indians were set yet another low target of 139 after an impressive bowling performance that saw Munaf thrive in the company of Malinga. It looked straightforward, but with Tendulkar out of the equation- an inexperienced batting attack led by Rohit Sharma decided to make quite a meal of it. Dale Steyn bowled one of the better spells in IPL history after teasing and prodding teammate Levi in a classic wicket-maiden, but that was not to stop Rohit scoring an improbable 19 of the last over, shockingly bowled by Christian. A four, two and one by Franklin was followed by a six (sliced over deep point), two (which saw Sharma defy gravity and dive to safety) and final-ball six (over long-on) that sparked off wild celebrations in the Mumbai camp. This great escape was to be their turning point for the next few games, and could be the difference between a knockout spot and fifth place at the end of this very competitive league stage.
Chennai SuperKings v/s Royal Challengers Bangalore
April 12th, 2012
Arguably the most sensational high-score chase in IPL history, Champions Chennai not only pulled a rabbit out of the hat but also kept themselves alive after yet another slow, meandering start to their campaign. A Gayle special was instantly nullified by a 28-run penultimate over in which Albie Morkel smashed Virat Kohli(?) all over the park. Faff earlier led the Chennai side respectably through the first 10 overs with a classy 70, until old Murali had his former team in tangles. Once again, it was clueless captaincy by Vettori (after Sangakkara against Mumbai) that saw Chennai claw themselves back into a game that they had no business to win. In his defense, Vettori may not have expected the Chennai juggernaut to even take it till the 19th. Jadeja’s outside edge off the last ball bowled by Vinay Kumar raced away to the third man boundary, and completed the greatest turnaround in T20 cricket.
Kolkata Knight Riders v/s Rajasthan Royals
April 13th, 2012
Not a classic by IPL’s lofty standards, but quite close to an almighty trademark KKR chase. With Shakib falling in the penultimate over, the game was dragged down to the final over bowled by Chavan- with Rajasthan fighting bravely in the field after an average batting performance (131). With Yusuf at the crease along with Ryan Ten, another wicket could have spelt chaos in the Rider ranks- but for once, the Knight Riders showed considerable poise in another low chase that had bowlers dominating the game once again.
Pune Warriors v/s Chennai Super Kings
April 14th, 2012
It was Dada v/s Dhoni, but rookie Steve Smith’s whirlwind 44 stole the show, after a weak Pune batting order chased down an improbable 156 at home. Dhoni’s astounding decision to not hand the ball to Jadeja (who incidentally top-scored in their innings), and instead depend on the inexperience of Yo Mahesh, cost them big- and handed Ganguly his biggest comeback victory in charge of his new team. Riding on Ryder’s final flourish to form, Pune stepped it up in the last few overs, with Bravo and Ashwin made to look rather ordinary by the rampaging Aussie-Kiwi pair. A last over finish, another upset, and the group was split wide open once again.
Kolkata Knight Riders v/s Kings XI Punjab
April 15th, 2012
Yet another score of 135 to chase, and this time, KKR couldn’t let the cynics down. After a Narine masterclass in the first innings (IPL-5 first fiver) they choked, and how, while chasing this modest target- despite having wickets in hand in arguably the longest batting order of the tournament. Das’s cameo at the end couldn’t save them, thanks to some daft shot-selection by Bisla and Yusuf- and some inspired bowling by Chawla. Ending two runs short of the target after requiring 9 off the last over, KKR were left wondering if they will ever overcome the small-match demons.
Rajasthan Royals v/s Deccan Chargers
April 17th, 2012
This time, it was the Royals opportunity to hand Deccan yet another last-over victory-to-defeat gut-wrenching loss, and relegate them to the bottom of the table. A scorching blinder by the experienced Brad Hodge helped the Royals march on to an exciting win after a loss-inducing Menaria innings, despite Sangakkara learning from his mistakes and saving Steyn for the last over. Steyn was destroyed, as were Christian and Rajan during a well-planned display of power-hitting that must have driven Sangakkara to dropping Steyn for the next game. Later, this would go down as one of the most exciting days in IPL history- because of the game following this one…