The best innings the IPL has had to offer this season.
Sunil Narine, 54 off 17
Royal Challengers Bangalore vs Kolkata Knight Riders, 7th May
KKR won by six wickets with 29 balls remaining
Honourable mention: Chris Lynn, 50 off 22
Narine’s whirlwind starts opening the batting have provided some of the most entertaining cricket this tournament has seen, and this was its apex: a 15-ball half-century that sits jointly at the top of the table of quick IPL fifties – imagine sticking a fiver on the spinner doing that at the start of the season!
And Lynn’s wasn’t exactly just a supporting role, as he notched up a 21-ball 50 of his own. Remarkably, KKR’s six-over score was 105-0, more than any other team has notched up in an IPL powerplay, and they soon strolled to victory.
Rishabh Pant, 97 off 43
Delhi Daredevils vs Gujarat Lions, 4th May
DD won by seven wickets with 15 balls remaining
Honourable mention: Sanju Samson, 61 off 31
There have been a few games like this this tournament – big totals gunned down quickly and with ease – and this was the best of the lot. The 208 Delhi chased down was the second highest in IPL history, and it was remarkable because so far this tournament Daredevils have mostly been a bowling team, relying on Kagiso Rabada and Pat Cummins to restrict teams to chaseable totals.
But what made it most special was that it was achieved not off the back of a group of established stars, but by a pair of talented young Indian batsman, who could be terrorising bowlers on the international stage for years to come.
Rishabh Pant’s 97 was the start turn, coming from just 43 balls and containing nine huge sixes, but Sanju Samson’s 61 off 31 was almost as good, and a statistician’s dream, since it contained not a single boundary four. Remarkably, the precocious duo gunned down the target at a run rate of over 12, leaving 15 balls unused. And not to toot our own horn, but we did pick out both at the start of the year as two of the best young players in the world.
Rahul Tripathi, 93 off 52
Kolkata Knight Riders vs Rising Pune Supergiant, 3rd May
RPS won by four wickets with four balls remaining
One of the few RPS wins Stokes hasn’t played a key part in, and they had Rahul Tripathi to thank. He’s been one of the finds of the tournament, consistently ensuring fast starts – seven 30+ scores from 10 innings, strike rate of 153 – and this showed what he can do when he bats deep into the innings.
His 93 almost single-handedly chased down KKR’s 155 – the next highest score was Stokes’ 14 and he scored 14 boundaries compared to just six by the rest of his team. He may have missed his hundred, pulling to mid-wicket with the game almost done, but it was the only blemish on one of the knocks of the tournament.
Ben Stokes, 103 off 63
Rising Pune Supergiant vs Gujarat Lions, 1st May
RPS won by five wickets with one ball remaining
Under clear Pune skies against the Gujarat Lions in a crucial game for both teams’ chances of qualifying and facing a scoreboard reading 10-3 in pursuit of 161, the full might of Stokes’ extraordinary talent was once again laid bare.
The raw facts tell us that he hit 103 not out from 63 balls with seven fours and six sixes. That the next highest score was 26, that just seven non-Stokesian boundaries were managed across 20 overs, that Pune needed 60 from 30 with Stokes on 59 from 45 and that he hit 44 from his next 18 deliveries. What they don’t convey is the dazzling cheek of it all, and the weird sense, watching it, of inevitability – that once he was on a roll, nothing and nobody was going to stop him.
David Warner, 126 off 59
Sunrisers Hyderabad vs Kolkata Knight Riders, 30th April
SRH won by 48 runs
This was David Warner at his belligerent best, hitting through the line, throwing his hands at anything he could, and carting the bowling to all corners. He’s earned his reputation as one of the most destructive hitters in the world, but even for him this was special: he brought up his fifty off the first ball of the fifth over, and was 98 by the end of the tenth.
Gayle’s 175 wasn’t out of the question. Heck, 200 wasn’t out of the question. It didn’t happen, as Chris Woakes belatedly had him caught at cover, having dropped him twice earlier, and Davey had to settle for the season’s highest score, and winning the match for his team.
Jos Buttler, 77 off 37
Kings XI Punjab vs Mumbai Indians, 20th April
MI won by eight wickets with 27 balls remaining
Honourable mention: Hashim Amla, 104 off 60
Up until this knock, Buttler had had something of a quiet tournament. He’d sparkled in patches but, thanks to a couple of dodgy umpiring calls, he had yet to stamp his mark on any game. Still, he’d looked in good touch, and you fancied it wouldn’t be long until he came good. When he did it was worth the wait: a furious display of hitting that added fuel to the arguments of those who think cricket has become a game of brute power rather than style and timing.
The first innings of the game saw Hashim Amla notch up a typicllay exquisite hundred, all high elbows, every shot fully forward or fully back – proper cricket. But Kings XI Punjab’s 198 would prove woefully inadequate, as Mumbai Indians chased it down with eight wickets and more than four overs in hand. It was an assault, on cricketing sensibility as much as on Punjab’s bowlers – not a single one went at less than 10 an over – and Buttler was at its head.
Kane Williamson, 89 off 51
Sunrisers Hyderabad vs Delhi Daredevils, 19th April
SRH won by 15 runs
He might be the best batsman his country has ever had, and the No.3 ranked batsman in the ICC’s T20I rankings, but that counts for nothing in the IPL, and poor form last season led to New Zealand’s Kane Williamson starting this year on the bench. Still, class is permanent, and when his chance came he grabbed it with both hands. Or rather, he gently clasped it, for it’s hard to imagine this most graceful player doing anything violently. His innings contained barely a shot hit in anger, and led SRH to a match-winning 191.
MS Dhoni, 61 off 34
Rising Pune Supergiant vs Sunrisers Hyderabad, 22nd April
RPS won by six wickets with zero balls remaining
It’s been a strange few months for MS Dhoni. Before this year it was hard to remember the last time he played under someone else’s captaincy, but now it seems he might be done with leading entirely, having stepped down sensibly as India captain, and having been forcibly removed from the Rising Pune Supergiant job in favour of Steve Smith.
And while as a batsman he has retained his cool head, and put in some exceptional performances in that period, his ability to take it to the bowlers from ball one has come into question. So this match-winning 61*, a vintage Dhoni knock, must have reassured him almost as much as it did us that he still had it.
It came in a chase, and with RPS’ backs to the wall, requiring 47 off three overs. In other words, Dhoni territory. He picked his moments, finding third man a very profitable region for his hockey slices, and knowing when to go properly big with his bottom-hand shovel over long-on, almost a helicopter, but without the follow-through. As is his wont, it came down to the last, with two required off the final ball. Dhoni smashed it through extra-cover for four. He is back!
Manan Vohra, 95 off 50
Sunrisers Hyderabad vs Kings XI Punjab, 17th April
SRH won by five runs
Honorable mention: David Warner, 70 off 54
Perhaps the best innings of the tournament and it came in one of the matches of the tournament. Batting first, David Warner overcame a slow start – he didn’t hit a boundary until his 18th ball – to craft an unbeaten 70 that carried SRH to 159-6.
Then, it was the Manan Vohra show. Without him, KXIP wouldn’t have been close – the rest of their batsman combined made 49 off 69 balls. His domination was most in evidence against Rashid Khan, against whom he faced 14 balls and plundered 37. Take that out, and Rashid would have figures of 2-5.
Had it ended in victory, his 95 off 50 may have been the greatest IPL innings. But Bhuvneshwar Kumar would strike the decisive blow, taking two wickets in three balls, the second that of Vohra, LBW to a dipping full-toss, to finish with 5-19. Kings XI still came close, but, with six needed off two balls, and Ishant Sharma facing, a Kaul yorker shattered the off-stump, and all those watching could finally draw breath.
Rishabh Pant, 57 off 36
Royal Challengers Bangalore vs Delhi Daredevils, 8th April
RCB won by 15 runs
We already knew 19 year-old Rishabh Pant was talented. His Ranji Trophy stats for the season – runs: 972, average: 81, strike rate: 107, high score: 308 off 326 balls – tell you that, and we caught glimpses live during India’s T20 series against England.
But to perform in the wake of a tragedy, as Pant did, having returned from his father’s funeral hours before Delhi Daredevils’ first fixture, is something else altogether.
So while the pyrotechnics of his knock were impressive, as he kept swinging as wickets fell around him, and narrowly failed to singlehandedly chase down RCB’s 157, it was the circumstances surrounding it that really caught the eye and confirmed Pant as something truly special, a potential heir to MS Dhoni’s wicketkeeping throne in all three formats.
AB de Villiers, 89 off 46
Kings XI Punjab vs Royal Challengers Bangalore, 10th April
KXIP won by eight wickets with 33 balls remaining
With injuries taking their toll, and having missed the opening of the season due to injury, we feared that we might have already seen the best of AB. But on his return, replacing Chris Gayle, and as the castle crumbled around him, he smote everything that came his way.
Respectable deliveries on and around off stump were golf-swung over mid-wicket and out of the stadium, wide yorkers were chopped up and over backward point for four, and balls almost off the cut strip were smashed off one leg – while falling over – way, way over cover.
He finished on 89 off 46, while the rest of his team made 55 off 74, and RCB lost heavily. But that’s not the point. AB is back, and as good as ever. How we’ve missed him.
Sheryas Iyer, 96 off 57
Gujarat Lions vs Delhi Daredevils, 10th May
DD won by two wickets with two balls remaining
It was a shame this match was a dead rubber, because this was an innings worthy of winning the greatest of prizes. Chasing Gujarat Lions’ 195, Sheryas Iyer found little support, and also found he didn’t need it. The innings was remarkable for its reliance on timing rather than power hitting – it contained 15 fours compared to just two sixes. Iyer missed the hundred, and the chance to win the match for his team, but he’d done enough, as the incoming Mishra flicked and scooped two boundaries to seal the win.
Wriddhiman Saha, 93* off 55
Mumbai Indians vs Kings XI Punjab, 11th May
KXIP won by seven runs
Honourable mention: Keiron Pollard, 50 off 24
We could well have done a “Best Innings of KXIP v MI.” This was a must win game for Punjab, and having racked up 230-3 at the halfway stage, they must have been confident. Guptill’s 36 off 18 kick-started the innings, while Maxwell’s 47 off 21 kept up the carnage even after the powerplay. But the key knock was Wriddhiman Saha’s 93 off 55, as he managed to keep his head and play the straight man as everyone else was swinging from the hip.
The game seemed settled, but Mumbai just kept swinging, and brutal fifties from Parthiv Patel and Kieron Pollard, as well as a momentum-shifting 30 off 13 from Hardik Pandya meant they were always in the hunt. It came down to 10 off four balls, and the Indians were favourites, considering what had gone before. It would have been the IPL’s highest ever chase, but Mohit Sharma kept his nerve, nailing his knuckle balls and yorkers to leave Mumbai seven short, and Kings XI still in with a shout.
Anyone we’ve missed or who shouldn’t be in there? Comment below