The question is what could a team do for its survival? Kings XI Punjab scored the highest Indian Premier League total of the season in order to keep themselves alive in the hunt to make it to the playoffs. Yes, they couldn’t have afforded any loss at this stage and needed to win all their remaining games in order to make it to the playoffs. At first, they turned the tide against Kolkata aKnight Riders and then beat Mumbai Indians in their own den to give themselves a golden chance of making it to the playoffs. And now, they are high on confidence and look good to overcome they final barrier against Rising Pune Supergiant in their ultimate league stage encounter. Thursday night undoubtedly witnessed one of the most nerve-wracking and entertaining T20 games played in the history of cricket.
There was intensity, emotions as the momentum swung like a swing every now and then. In a race of a cat and a mouse, Mohit Sharma delivered an absolute gem in the electrifying final over to carry the team over the line in a match, which produced 453 runs in 40 overs. How many times do we get to see 453 runs being scored in a single game and the result being unknown till the penultimate delivery? Well, the answer is an oddity. The match had it’s fair share of ups and downs and many turning points, and one wouldn’t be wrong in terming this as one of the best T20 games ever played.
The Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai has been a wonderful chasing venue and a nightmare for the defending side on most of the occasions. The massive dew factor plays a massive role for the bowlers and Mumbai Indians did the right job in opting to field after winning the toss. For Kings XI Punjab, everything was on the line and they took some bold decisions to ensure that they had things in control. The pitch at Wankhede was no less than a batting paradise.
KXIP needed to improvise and they did so by elevating Wriddhiman Saha at the top and Maxwell at three. The moves paid off as the wicket-keeper batsman plundered an unbeaten 93 to guide his side to a massive total of 230. KXIP needed their skipper as well as others to score, which rightly happened. Riding on Saha’s brilliance and cameos from Martin Guptill and Glenn Maxwell, KXIP had a massive total to defend on the board. Mumbai Indians’ bowlers were at sixes and sevens after the kind of assault they endured by KXIP batsmen in the first innings.
On any given day, a team can afford to relax after having 230 runs on the board in a T20 game. But, MI were up for a battle and ensured that gave the home crowd a run for their money. Rohit Sharma had a team discussion right at the end of the first innings, which demonstrated their self-belief. MI’s had the firepower to gun down such a massive total, which they almost did but missed out by a whisker.
Once again, the question that strikes the mind of any cricket fan is – what constitutes for a perfect T20 match? Maverick hitting, mind-boggling catches, fall of wickets at key moments, dropping catches under pressure, misfields, a last-over finish. This game had it all.
MI openers started off briskly and were well on course. Martin Guptill pulled off an absolute screamer at long-on to end the hard-hitting Lendl Simmons innings and bring KXIP back into the game. At a delicate situation came Kieron Pollard and did what he is known for – manic hitting. When Hardik Pandya arrived at the crease, MI needed 110 off 44 deliveries and the mission looked almost impossible for the Mumbai Indians. But hang on, Pollard and Pandya were not done yet.
The duo threatened to take the game away from KXIP with their brisk 55-run partnership from 21 deliveries but a low sharp catch by Saha ended Pandya’s run and the onus of carrying the team over the line was entirely on Pollard. The duo milked 27 runs off the 16th over by Adam Milne and set the tone for an implausible run-chase.
How painful is a dropped catch? And to make it worse, how painful and costly can it be to drop a simple catch and let it bounce over the boundary for a maximum? When Glenn Maxwell dropped Karn Sharma and the ball popped from his hands into the boundary, many would have thought that this could be the turning point for KXIP, but it wasn’t. Karn added more agony by stealing two more boundaries off the next two deliveries.
Sandeep Sharma conceded seven runs off the 19th when the equation was 23 off 12 and gave a rare glimpse of a win to his side. With a rampaging Pollard at the crease, 16 off the last over was no big deal, especially against a bowler who has already leaked 49 runs off first three. It was all about holding the nerves and absorbing the pressure, which Mohit rightly did by giving away just eight runs and snatching an improbable victory.
Pollard didn’t run a single when the equation was nine off four and the next three deliveries were dots. When was the last time a batsman of Pollard’s caliber endured three dots in such a crunch run-chase? This was some brilliant execution of plans by Mohit Sharma under pressure and in the end, the team who played better cricket won.