Mitchell Santner hit a last-ball six as Chennai Super Kings beat Rajasthan Royals by four wickets amid dramatic scenes in the Indian Premier League at Jaipur on Thursday night.
Needing three runs to win off the last ball, Santner moved into position just enough to be able to extend his arms and loft a Ben Stokes delivery high over long-on.
As if the run chase was not nail-biting enough, there was plenty of drama in the last over of Chennai’s innings which saw Stokes concede a six to Ravindra Jadeja, take the wicket of captain and top-scorer MS Dhoni and then be drawn into an argument over whether he bowled a no-ball straight after.
The England all-rounder bowled a high full-toss following which the umpire stuck hand out for a no-ball only for the square-leg umpire to overrule his colleague’s decision. This provoked the normally ice-cool Dhoni to walk out to the middle and question the decision.
The Indian wicketkeeper lost that battle with the umpires agreeing it was not a no-ball. He is also likely to receive some sort of sanction from the match referee for arguing with match officials, while Chennai are almost certainly going to be docked ‘fairplay’ points.
The 37-year-old is unlikely to sweat over the consequences of his action, at least for now, given his side pulled off a win and continue to top the IPL table. But he will wonder whether the visitors left it a little too late.
At one point, he and India teammate Ambati Rayudu looked poised to chase down Rajasthan’s total of 151-7. Rayudu, in particular, showed his class as he scored a 47-ball 57 under pressure.
For long persisted with by the Indian selectors as the national team’s No 4 batsman but who has sometimes frustrated them with indifferent form, Rayudu was on song at a time when Chennai needed him to deliver.
The visitors made a poor start to their run chase, losing the wickets of Shane Watson (0) and Suresh Raina (4) with just five runs on the board when Rayudu stepped in to bat. It got worse for them as Faf du Plessis (7) and Kedar Jadhav (1) were dismissed with their total 24-4.
Rayudu then struck a 95-run partnership with Dhoni (58 from 43 balls) who – like his India teammate – smashed three sixes and two fours.
Dhoni paid tribute to Rajasthan, saying: “They were a few runs short of what would’ve been a good score. But they put pressure on our batsmen and they were able to build pressure right to the end,” he said.
Earlier in the night, the home team laboured their way to 151-7 on the back of cameos from Stokes (28), Jos Buttler (23) and Shreyas Gopal (19 not out). Left-arm spinner Jadeja (2-20), and medium-pacers Deepak Chahar (2-33) and Shardul Thakur (2-44) were the pick of Chennai's bowlers.
While they received support from the pitch which was on the slower side, they had to bowl in the right areas which they did. But for some lusty blows from Stokes, their bowling figures would have been even better.
But it is Chennai's batsmen who received the lion's share of the credit for victory, particularly Rayudu.
“It was a tough going; the wicket has been slow. [But] we are both experienced,” he said. “You dream for such situations where you can take your team out of trouble.”
Indeed, the man from Andhra Pradesh – who before Thursday had scores of 28, five, one, zero, 21 not out and 21 in the IPL this season – may have timed his fifty to perfection given India are still figuring out who their No 4 batsman will be with the Cricket World Cup less two months away.
A few more innings of this quality and the 33-year-old will almost certainly put an end to that debate.