Chennai Super Kings 218-4 (Rayadu 72*, Moeen 58, Du Plessis 50, Pollard 2-12)
Mumbai Indians 219-6 (Pollard 87*)
Imagine meeting the Incredible Hulk. Then arming him with a railway sleeper. That pretty much describes Keiron Pollard. Chennai Super Kings registered their highest score against the Mumbai Indians in IPL history but it still wasn’t enough. They were Pollarded, and slipped to a last-ball defeat by four wickets. They instantly understood the mood swing Akila Dananjaya had experienced when the Sri Lankan spinner took a T20 hat-trick against the West Indies only to see his next over disappear for six sixes at the hands of the titanic Trinidadian.
And what’s more, CSK had got to their total of 218 thanks to an innings which seemed unlikely to be bettered on the night as Ambati Rayadu smashed 72 from 27 balls to make nonsense of a mid-innings blip in which they had lost three wickets for four runs.
He lures you in, does Pollard. He’s quite happy to defend his first three or four balls and not even in a textbook way: he does just what is necessary to keep the ball at bay while the muscles warm up and expand. Then, metaphorically speaking, the eyes dilate, the biceps flex and the buttons ping off the front of his tightening shirt. Carnage ensues. Here, for a few deliveries, he showed Moeen Ali circumspect respect after he had caught and bowled Quinton de Kock, one of three wickets for 10 runs in two overs, before going to town on Ravi Jadeja.
Pollard hit three enormous sixes off the left arm spinner in the 13th over to go from three off five balls to 21 off nine – a statistical nugget, Pollard has now hit 10 sixes off 48 IPL balls from Jadeja – and then hit two more off the pace of Lungi Ngidi towards the end of the 14th.
He kept the strike with a single off the final ball and dished out similar treatment to Shardul Thakur: 6, 4, 4, 4 he went – the last taking him to a fifty in 17 balls, the fastest this year and the fastest ever against Dhoni’s men.
Sam Curran returned to remove Krunal Pandya lbw just as he was joining in the fun and the brakes were briefly applied, two coming off the 17th over. Still, 48 were required but Pollard bludgeoned once more, Shardul going straight for a flat six and a four, long-off, just metres away, rooted to the spot as the ball fizzed past him.
Then he mistimed a pull, Du Plessis ran round under it at long-on and – sharp intake of breath – shelled it.
Curran ran in undaunted again, the man who makes things happen, but Hardik had absorbed the momentum: six off the back foot over long-on followed, another whipped away over square leg. A third effort fell short, pouched by Du Plessis, sliding around at long-off, and Jimmy Neesham, on debut for the franchise, clipped a full toss straight to long leg first ball.
With his partner now Dhawal Kulkarni – who has only three double-figure scores in 14 IPL seasons – 16 was essentially Pollard’s target from the last over, Ngidi the man in his way.
The first ball, a long full toss, was swung to deep square but Pollard rejected the single. The next was a middle stump yorker but Pollard squeezed it out – some suggest through his own legs, Natmeg style – to long leg for four.
The next was a waist-high full toss, just helped on its way to the fine leg rope. Another full toss was swung to deep square again, a bounce short of Shardul, who spread himself to prevent the four. A quicker man might have had two but Pollard, once more, eschewed what he saw as only a single.
Eight was required as Ngidi ran in for the penultimate ball but the pressure had got to him and another full toss was lifted over the square-leg boundary.
With two required, Pollard squeezed the final ball to the right of long-on; Kulkarni was already half-way down and he turned to almost lap his partner to get back to complete an astonishing victory.
Pollard thanked his Lord and trooped off, 87 runs to his name from just 34 balls, 24 from fours, 48 of them from sixes. CSK’s five-game winning run was at an end.
He was also the only Mumbai bowler who could look back on his spell with any real satisfaction, taking two quick wickets in the middle of the innings to put Chennai in a position of some peril as 112 for one in the 11th over became 116 for four two overs later.
Rayadu, though, hit seven maximums of his own, doubling his runs aggregate for the season and inflicting serious damage on some bowling egos in the process: Jasprit Bumrah, who finished with one for 56 from his four overs, recorded his most expensive figures in the tournament, while Trent Boult and Kulkarni also went for more than 40 runs each.
He dominated an unbeaten partnership of 102 in eight overs with Ravi Jadeja – a man not unused to late-innings fireworks – a second stand of over 100 for Chennai, for whom Moeen and Du Plessis also hit fifties that on another day would have made more headlines.
With Quinton de Kock, Rohit Sharma, who survived an lbw call early on against Deepak Chahar – he seemed as surprised as anybody to see the thinnest of edges unearthed by the technology – gave Mumbai a quick start but when he holed out to Rujurat Gaikwad sweeping on the cover boundary, it was the first of three wickets in no time.
Mumbai need not have worried, though. The gargantuan man in blue was warming up, and he was about to turn green.