Super Over bonanza took IPL 2020 close to cricketing perfection

Concept of parity reached its peak on Sunday when both matches went to one-over eliminator

Kings XI Punjab Coach Anil Kumble and whole team at the dugout jumps with joy sand celebrates win over Mumbai Indians during match 36 of season 13 of the Dream 11 Indian Premier League (IPL) between the Mumbai Indians and the Kings XI Punjab held at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium, Dubai in the United Arab Emirates on the 18th October 2020.  Photo by: Samuel Rajkumar  / Sportzpics for BCCI

Has the IPL reached sporting perfection? Or as close as T20 cricket could possibly get to it?

According to the influential Italian sports writer and novelist Gianni Brera, who worked in the mid-20th century, the perfect football match should end 0-0.

He believed a goalless draw could contain the ideal balance of attacking prowess and defensive robustness, with no flaws – and therefore no goals.

All of which sounds nice, if a little dull, especially when set against the Lockdown IPL of 2020.

The IPL has found a way of playing off attacking excellence against increasingly extraordinary defensive skills, in high scoring games, that still end up in stalemates.

Four of the first 36 matches this season have ended in ties. Of the two that happened on Sensational Sunday in the UAE, even one of the one-over eliminators ended tied, too.

When the IPL was first created, back in 2008, it had two main goals. First, to base itself on the most luminous cricket talent money could buy.

And, secondly, to as good as guarantee that all sides are well matched, hence the regulations governing how franchises are able to recruit, retain, and trade players.

Never has the second of those aims been so clearly achieved as it has this season. The concept of parity peaked on Sunday when both matches went to a one-over eliminator.

Lockie Ferguson starred for Kolkata Knight Riders against Sunrisers Hyderabad in the first. Then came an even bigger thriller.

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Kolkata v Hyderabad Super Over: player ratings

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Kings XI Punjab were bottom of the table, yet they took defending champions and favourites Mumbai Indians to two Super Overs, and eventually won out.

It was Punjab's second tie of the tournament. The previous weekend, they had lost a game by two runs, when Glenn Maxwell's shot off the final ball against Kolkata Knight Riders fell millimetres short of going for six.

More than any other side, their matches have been living and dying by the odd inch here or there.

Even in the stunning double-tie against Mumbai, all the major flashpoints were centred on such narrow margins.

Chris Jordan was run out just short of the second run that would have won Punjab the match off the last ball in regulation time.

The first Super Over ended with scores level when KL Rahul’s flicked throw beat Quinton de Kock to the stumps in a photo finish.

Once the sides had figured out the new eliminator regulations and gone back out, Mumbai might have had it won when Kieron Pollard hit the last ball of Jordan’s over towards the long-on fence.

Mayank Agarwal clawed it back while soaring in the air. Even that needed TV adjudication, to see if he had flicked the boundary marker in setting off, or while falling back down to earth.

He had not, and, with Chris Gayle’s help, settled the chase shortly after.

Given the finish, it was no surprise he was high on life when he fronted for his TV interview straight after.

“This is sport,” Agarwal said. “It can get hard, but you can definitely not live without it.

“The mindset was, we have nothing to lose. The first-ball went for six, then the pressure was off us.

“For a moment or two, the Delhi Capitals game [which they lost in a Super Over] went through my mind, but then it was a case of watching the ball and hitting.”

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The kind of team spirit and camaraderie we have been showing has been second to none

Jordan, for his part, felt his side deserved a break, given the previous close finishes.

“I feel like, the way we played this season, a lot of matches could have ended with us on the winning side,” Jordan said.

“That wasn’t the case, but I think in the last two games especially, the kind of team spirit and camaraderie we have been showing as an entire team, unit and franchise has been second to none.”

Now they get the chance to live it all again. Once their limbs, and emotions, have recovered, they will have to start again, having given themselves a shot at making the playoffs.

To think, as recently as 13 years ago, the IPL was not even a thing, and Indians were sceptical about T20 cricket. Thank goodness they came to their senses.

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