Extraordinary is an adjective that should not be used lightly. However, on a day when batting was taken to another level, a level previously unknown, extraordinary would be an adjective which would not even come close to explaining what went on in the IPL 2014 Qualifier 2 between the Kings XI Punjab and the Chennai Super Kings at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai.
Virender Sehwag and Suresh Raina -- one still proving he is far from ready to walk into the sunset and the other just showing his ridiculous talent -- played a couple of innings for the ages, two knocks that made the stunning efforts from Yusuf Pathan and Corey Anderson look like a day-old wine in front of a 100-year-old vintage bottle.
Sehwag (122, 58b, 12x4, 8x6) started the batting carnage in the first innings at the Wankhede, carving the CSK bowlers apart like only he can to help Kings XI to 226 for six in their 20 overs after being put into bat.
In reply, Raina (87, 25b, 12x4, 6x6) played an innings which would have been near impossible on the PS3, even on the Easy level, to make CSK favourites to pull off the biggest chase in T20 history, only for an unbelievable run out from George Bailey to turn the match on its head and give KXIP an eventually comfortable 24-run victory.
The win means Kings XI Punjab now have a rematch against the Kolkata Knight Riders in the final of IPL 2014 at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore on Sunday, while CSK look to next season, after another sound campaign, even if the ultimate goal was not quite achieved.
The start for CSK in the massive chase was not what they wanted, as Faf Du Plessis fell for a golden duck in just the second delivery of the innings, mistiming a pull shot off a quick short one from Mitchell Johnson.
That wicket proved to be a blessing in disguise as Raina caught fire in the most amazing fashion -- turning pretty much every single ball he faced into a boundary.
Entering the chase, Dwayne Smith would have been the batsman everyone would have looked at as the danger man, but the West Indian was about as involved in the partnership of 66 in 4.4 overs as his teammates in the dugout, scoring just six runs in all, as Raina went berserk.
The left-hander's innings was just supreme; not like Pathan, or Anderson, where every boundary looked like there was a bit of effort in it. This was just Raina at his absolute best, the kind of Raina that everyone saw as a teenager and expected to conquer the world.
The way he just pierced the field time and again, made his decision over where to hit the ball even before the bowler knew what he was going to ball, and that swing of the blade was poetry in motion, poetry which would have put even the likes of Keats and Wordsworth to shade.
In the blink of an eye (really, it's not much of an exaggeration, there would not have been too many blinks), CSK had raced to 67 for two in the first five overs, with Raina racing to the second fastest IPL fifty of all-time, and the only dampener being Smith's wicket in the final ball of the fifth over.
With Raina in this kind of zone, a zone that even over-evolved aliens would have difficulty finding, it did not matter. The left-hander, in the over after Smith's wicket – the sixth of the innings – tonked Parwinder Awana (4-0-59-2), who would have been thinking why on earth he was not dropped for Sandeep Sharma instead of Rishi Dhawan, for 33 runs, with two sixes, off the first two balls, and five fours, off the next five, with one also being a no-ball.
That over took CSK to 100 in the first six overs, the highest ever score by a team in the Powerplay, with Raina, on 87, beating the previous record of 86 on his own.
But that dream innings would be brought to a cruel end in the first ball of the seventh over, thanks to some poor yes, no, yes, no running from Raina and Brendon McCullum and some outstanding fielding from KXIP skipper Bailey, who picked up the ball on the run, turned around and threw the ball blind right at the stumps, with Raina out of his crease.
Thanks to Raina's out-of-this-world innings, though, the equation has been brought down to 127 from 14 overs, the required run rate reading a lot better 9.07.
But, momentum, especially in T20 cricket is a fickle thing – one moment it's your best friend, and the other, it has taken camp with your enemy. Raina's wicket just allowed Kings XI to breathe and believe again as McCullum struggled to hit his own top gear.
The New Zealander and Ravindra Jadeja tried to keep CSK on course, while bringing a semblance of reality into the proceedings, with their 40-run partnership from 5.5 overs proving that there were human beings playing this game after all.
McCullum (11, 16b) , after being involved in that run out which turned the game, ran himself out as well, before Awana, nightmare and all, came back with a bang with two wickets in the same over – of Jadeja (27, 21b, 2x4, 1x6) and David Hussey (1, 3b).
With 13 overs gone, CSK had suddenly slumped to 143 for six, leaving captain MS Dhoni (42 n.o., 3x4, 3x6) to do the impossible yet again, with his team needing 84 from the final 42. Impossible proved to be just beyond his reach, this time around, though, as Kings XI entered the IPL 2014 final, with CSK finishing on a brilliant score, if taken in isolation, of 202 for seven.
A little before that unbelievable drama, there was some pure unadulterated Viru bashing, with Sehwag playing one of the great IPL innings, and showing there was still plenty of life left in him.
In his opening partnership with Manan Vohra over the past six games, Sehwag has largely taken the backseat. The master of the early attack decided it was his time, though, and boy did he enjoy himself while giving some great entertainment that even some of the CSK fans at the Wankhede were standing up and applauding one of the all-time greats.
Sehwag and Vohra put on 110 for the first wicket in 10.4 overs, with the young tyro managing just 34 of those runs in 31 deliveries, which just showed how much Sehwag was in the mood.
Vohra left in the 11th over, but Sehwag just kept blasting them for a six or a boundary with ridiculous ease, as Glenn Maxwell looked to join in, carting a boundary and a maximum.
However, R Ashwin, who had thrown down the gauntlet to Maxwell, after being murdered a couple of times in the league phase, got his revenge with the Kings XI star holing out in the deep a ball after smashing a big six.
It did not matter that it was not Maxwell's day, however, and that was pretty much the only joy Ashwin had with the ball, as Sehwag and David Miller continued the assault with a 63-run partnership from 33 balls to ensure KXIP would cruise past the 200-run mark.
CSK, who conceded 200 runs or more against the Kings XI for the third straight time this season, did pull things back in the final couple of overs, though, conceding just 15 runs, while picking up four wickets, including that of Sehwag, but the damage was already done.