Image credit – AFP
It’s official. Absolutely anything can happen in the Indian Premier League. Thursday, April 11, gave the most definitive evidence of that.
MS Dhoni, that most staid of cricketers, was at the centre of a scene. The man has led India to two world titles, a Champions Trophy title, and to the top of the Test mountain – all without showing so much as a flicker of emotion.
On Thursday, he walked into the field in the last over of a nail-biting chase. After he had been dismissed. It drew as much surprise as it did criticism. Chennai Super Kings eventually prevailed by four wickets. Dhoni picked up his 100th IPL win as captain. But that was hardly what anyone was talking about at the end of the night.
— Chennai Super Kings (@ChennaiIPL) April 12, 2019
Last-over hysteria. The IPL is no stranger to it. But this was unlike anything seen before in the league. Chennai needed 18 off the last over. And what a finish it turned out to be.
Ben Stokes had to endure some old wounds getting reopened – no, not Bristol. With his last over on Thursday, he probably sent all of England into depression. To be fair to him, though, he has come a long way since that World T20 final finish. On that occasion, he conceded the game in four balls. This time, he took it all the way to the final ball. But the end was the exact same: a six to finish things.
It’s also how the over began. Ravindra Jadeja disproved that most basic theory about batting – balance – and struck a six while tumbling down. What followed was mind-boggling. Picture this sequence: front-foot no-ball, slower ball for a brace, a stunning yorker to send back Dhoni, a no-ball for height, which was overruled, another brace, a wide off what should have been the last legal delivery (with an early celebration to boot), and six again. Talk about manic finishes.
Angry Dhoni. We’ve seen it a handful of times, but not of this magnitude. Dhoni left the field when a Stokes yorker snuck through his bat and leg and took out the stumps. One ball later, he was back on it.
Not only was he back on it, he was in a squabble with the on-field umpires. Stokes had attempted a slower ball and it slipped out, because when it’s the last over, Stokes can’t get anything right. Ulhas Gandhe signalled no-ball, only for the square leg umpire Bruce Oxenford to overturn it.
— Chennai Super Kings (@ChennaiIPL) April 11, 2019
It ticked Dhoni off, and what followed were angry words and wild gesticulations. Stokes got involved as well, but CSK had to make peace with being denied an extra run… until Stokes gave it to them anyway with a wide two balls later. The umpires made yet another gaffe this season, Dhoni was fined 50% of his match fee, and nobody came out of it looking any the better.
What they said
“By being there at the end, do you mean having a conversation with the umpires?”
– Dhoni seeing the light side of things at the presentation ceremony, though he had seemed far from amused moments ago
— Rajasthan Royals (@rajasthanroyals) April 11, 2019
What they didn’t say
“This boy will never learn.”
– Eoin Morgan, from somewhere in England, after watching Stokes’ last over
Kolkata Knight Riders face Delhi Capitals at home. The last encounter between these two sides ended in a tie. Here’s hoping for an encore, because the IPL is really lacking in excitement.