After a series of substandard matches, the fifth season of the IPL burst to life with a high-octane humdinger between the giants of the South, Chennai Super Kings and Royal Challengers Bangalore at the MA Chidambaram Stadium. It was the most unbelievable of Twenty20 matches in which Chennai, chasing 206 to win, were left to score 42 off the final 12 balls. Albie Morkel looted 28 of those in six deliveries from a hapless Virat Kohli, and in the final over Dwayne Bravo top-edged a no-ball for four and slashed a one-handed six over third man before Ravindra Jadeja edged the last ball to third man to seal an unforgettable win. Seemingly out of the contest after MS Dhoni fell on the last ball of the 18th over, Chennai pulled off an outrageous victory that could prove a massive turning point in their quixotic 2012 campaign.
In the context of this amazing five-wicket win, Bangalore's spectacular collapse of five wickets in seven balls after they had been 198 for 3 proved decisive. RCB will rue that sloppy end to their innings after Chris Gayle had smacked 68 off 35 balls, as well as Daniel Vettori's decision to let Kohli bowl the penultimate over of the match. How soon they rebound from this loss may be one of the focal points of IPL 5, too.
Dhoni, who had promoted himself to No. 4, had kept Bangalore on their toes with a few meaty sixes in his 24-ball 41 but his exit off the final ball of the 18th over left Chennai needing what seemed an improbable 43 from 12. That's when Vettori made a huge mistake and tossed the ball to Kohli. With five amazing hits, Morkel brought the equation down to 15 off six balls. It was absolutely amazing stuff: the first ball was somehow inside-edged to fine leg for four, the second smacked over long- on for six, the third edged to third man for four, the fourth deposited rows behind long-on, the fifth squirted to long-on for two and the sixth dumped for the biggest six of the match, again over Morkel's preferred long-on region. Rarely have there been as explosive overs in Twenty20 cricket.
Needing 43 from 12 balls, CSK beat RCB on the final ball.
Bravo got Morkel on strike for the second ball of the final over, but Bangalore heaved a collective sigh of relief when the burly allrounder drove a catch out to sweeper cover. But there was more drama to follow. Vinay Kumar sent down a no-ball which Bravo top-edged past a sprinting Muttiah Muralitharan at fine leg for four, and then sliced a low-dipping full toss over third man to send the home fans into a frenzy. A dot ball and single followed, and then Jadeja edged four to third man.
Such frenetic scenes had been hard to envision when Chennai had slumped to Murali had picked up third wicket, that of the game's top-scorer Faf du Plessis (71 off 46 balls) in the 15th over. The South African had struck five fours and four sixes even as Murali Vijay and Suresh Raina fell to Murali, but his exit after a 40-run stand in four overs with Dhoni left CSK needing something special. That is precisely what Morkel and Bravo provided.
For 19 overs in their innings after opting to bat, Bangalore had been in control even though Gayle batted out the Powerplay facing just seven balls for seven runs in a 53-run partnership with Mayank Agarwal who smacked 45 off 26 balls. Gayle finally teed off with three sixes off Raina, each over long-on, to leap from 11 from 11 balls to 30 off 15 as Bangalore reached 98 for 1, the best ten-over score of IPL 5.
Three quiet overs were broken by Gayle's belligerence, two monstrous sixes coming off Shadab Jakati as he sped past his fifty off 27 balls. At 161 for 1 – on the back of the highest second-wicket stand of IPL 5 - with four overs to go Bangalore would have been eying 220 at the minimum, but Chennai did superbly to peg them back to 205. Gayle and AB de Villiers were dismissed in the space of six balls and Saurabh Tiwary, Kohli, Cheteshwar Pujara, Vettori and Raju Bhatkal in six more as RCB lost the plot. Three of them belonged to Doug Bollinger in the 20th over. His first ball had Kohli caught at long-on, his second bowled Pujara bowled and his fifth saw Bhatkal chip to mid-off. In between, Vettori was run out as Bangalore went from 198 for 4 to 199 for 8. Vinay took the score past 200 with a last-ball six but there was a sense that CSK had gained some momentum.
Twenty overs later, Bangalore knew where the match was lost.