The battle to avoid the wooden spoon was won by the Rising Pune Supergiants after a stunning IPL 2016 match against the Kings XI Punjab in Visakhapatnam. Looking dead and buried after the top and middle order failed to stay with the required run rate, MS Dhoni turned his big-hitting clock back in ridiculous style to six-hit RPS to a stunning last-ball victory.
MS Dhoni, after leading CSK to playoff after playoff in previous seasons of the IPL, would have been disappointed at having to miss out on the top four festivities this season, but the India skipper, at least, made sure he would leave his mark, by scoring a wonderfully-brutal, unbeaten 64 (32b, 4x4, 5x6) to give RPS a four-wicket victory off the final ball.
After the bowlers, barring R Ashwin, who finished with four wickets, gave a little too many runs in the first innings, allowing KXIP to score 172/7 in their 20 overs, thanks to half-centuries from skipper Murali Vijay (59, 41b, 4x4, 3x6) and Gurkeerat Singh Mann (51, 30b, 3x4, 3x6), it looked like the batsmen would buckle under the pressure again, only for Dhoni to turn it around in one, absolutely stunning final over.
Needing 23 off the last over for a win, Dhoni, with Axar Patel bowling, tonked three sixes and a four to give RPS a win from nowhere.
A quick opening partnership, just to ease the middle order nerves, is what Dhoni would have wanted, and while Rahane (19, 15b, 4x4) looked good at the beginning, a strangle down the leg ended his stay at the crease.
George Bailey came in at No.3 and hit a couple of fours, before being stumped off the bowling of Axar Patel, with Usman Khawaja and Saurabh Tiwary, unable to get a move on, which in turn piled up the pressure as the required run rate increased. And when Tiwary (17, 15b, 1x4, 1x6) and Khawaja (30, 29b, 1x4, 1x6) fell in the same over to Gurkeerat, the writing was on the wall, even with Dhoni and Perera available to wield their willow, as the required run rate climbed in excess of 12.
With Irfan Pathan also falling without making an impression, it looked like the match was over, considering RPS needed 87 from 40 at that point, but Dhoni and Perera refused to give up, and the closer it got, the better their chances got of actually pulling off the chase.
The two experienced batsmen brought the equation down to 29 from 12, with Dhoni looking in the mood, but just when it looked possible, thanks to the sixth wicket partnership of 58, Perera was out caught behind off Mohit Sharma, the match firmly stayed in the KXIP camp, or, yet again, so it seemed.
Needing 23 from the last over, Vijay decided to go with Axar Patel in the final over, and Dhoni, only needing four scoring balls, smashes RPS to victory, three of which were sixes, massive ones, and the other being a four.