IPL 2021: Memorable moments in league stages - From Harshal Patel’s exploits to MS Dhoni’s resurgence

The IPL 2021 league stages came to an end with Delhi Capitals, Chennai Super Kings, Royal Challengers Bangalore and Kolkata Knight Riders being the top four teams to qualify for the playoff stages.

Kolkata Knight Riders became the fourth team on the last day of the league stages in the IPL 2021 playoffs.

The IPL 2021 league stages came to a dramatic end on Friday with a double-header. At the end of the league stages that began in April, Delhi Capitals, Chennai Super Kings, Royal Challengers Bangalore, and Kolkata Knight Riders securing the top four spots in the playoffs. Delhi Capitals will take on Chennai Super Kings in the first Qualifier. Royal Challengers Bangalore will square off against Kolkata Knight Riders in the Eliminator.

The league stages saw plenty of memorable moments. Harshal Patel was the show-stopper with his five-wicket haul and hat-trick against Mumbai Indians. The league stages also saw Ravindra Jadeja single-handedly dominate an opposition with the bat, ball, and in the field. Delhi Capitals were the stand-out side in the competition while Ruturaj Gaikwad was the star for Chennai Super Kings. Kolkata Knight Riders had a choke against Mumbai Indians but have recovered in fine style. Punjab Kings and Rajasthan Royals continued to struggle.

Following the end of the league stages, here is a recollection of some of the best moments in the IPL 2021.

Harshal Patel’s wonder season and domination of Mumbai Indians

Before IPL 2021, no bowler had ever taken a five-wicket haul against five-time champions Mumbai Indians. Harshal Patel went on to change all that. The pacer picked up a five-wicket haul in the very first match in Chennai as Royal Challengers Bangalore won by two wickets. In the return leg in the UAE, Harshal Patel picked up a hat-trick to ensure Royal Challengers Bangalore had beaten Mumbai Indians twice in the same edition for the first time.

Apart from Mumbai Indians, Harshal Patel has enjoyed a fabulous season. In the match against Delhi Capitals, he became the first Indian bowler to take 30 wickets in a single edition. With potentially two or three matches left for Harshal, he might break the record of most wickets in a single season which is 32 by Dwayne Bravo in 2013.

Kolkata Knight Riders’ epic choke against Mumbai Indians

Kolkata Knight Riders and their head-to-head record against Mumbai Indians is a tragedy of Shakespearean level. They had won only six matches against Mumbai Indians in their history of the IPL.  The sheer weight of the skewed Head-to-Head ratio told in their contest against Mumbai Indians in Chennai. Chasing 153, Kolkata Knight Riders had reached 122/3 in the 15th over. They needed 30 runs from 31 balls. But, in a spectacular botch, they lost four wickets for 18 runs as they lost the match by 10 runs. It showed that Kolkata Knight Riders had lost the mental battle when trying to win against Mumbai Indians.

Delhi Capitals create a unique first in IPL

It is no hidden fact that the Chennai Super Kings and Mumbai Indians are the most successful franchises in the history of the IPL. Rohit Sharma’s team has won five titles while MS Dhoni’s side have secured three trophies. To win against them requires a totally different level of aggression and skill. But, in 2021, Delhi Capitals have achieved something that might take ages to replicate.

In this edition of the IPL, Delhi Capitals became the only side in the history of the IPL to beat Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings twice in the same edition. Against Chennai Super Kings, Delhi Capitals won by seven wickets. In the last encounter in Dubai, Delhi Capitals got over the line by three wickets thanks to the finishing prowess of Shimron Hetmyer.

After getting the better of Chennai Super Kings, Delhi Capitals repeated the feat against Mumbai Indians. Having lost all four times in 2020, Delhi Capitals exacted the perfect revenge. Amit Mishra put on a magnificent performance to take 4/24 to help Delhi Capitals win a crucial match. In the next encounter, with Mumbai Indians desperately needing to win, Delhi Capitals upset their plan. Axar Patel and Avesh Khan took three wickets and Shreyas Iyer guided them over the line as Mumbai Indians’ playoff hopes were dashed.

Kieron Pollard’s magic against Chennai Super Kings

In the past, Kieron Pollard has always hurt the Chennai Super Kings on the big stage. The finals of 2013, 2015, and 2019 have seen Pollard play knocks that have stolen the momentum from Chennai Super Kings. In IPL 2021, it was no different. Mumbai Indians had a very indifferent IPL campaign so far and they needed some inspiration.

Chennai Super Kings had notched up 218/4 in Delhi thanks to Ambati Rayudu’s blitz. Mumbai Indians started well but had lost three wickets in the chase. In stepped Pollard and he put on an exhibition of hitting. He got going with three sixes off Ravindra Jadeja and he smashed two more off Lungi Ngidi. Pollard then smashed 23 runs in one over bowled by Shardul Thakur.

Mumbai Indians needed 48 runs in three overs. Pollard hit a six and a four off Thakur and he benefited from a dropped catch by Faf du Plessis. The final over saw Mumbai Indians requiring 16. Pollard hit two fours and a six as Mumbai Indians needed two off the last ball. Pollard jammed a yorker to long-on and took a couple to get Mumbai Indians over the line in a pulsating chase. It was the best knock played under pressure. Pollard had once again hurt Chennai Super Kings in a big way.

Ravindra Jadeja’s one-man demolition of RCB

Have you heard the term one-man demolition? This means a single person dominating the opposition. Ravindra Jadeja did that feat against Royal Challengers Bangalore in one of the best all-round feats in the IPL. Jadeja came into bat when Chennai Super Kings needed a big score.

In the final over, Jadeja blasted four sixes in three balls of Harshal Patel, the top bowler in IPL 2021. Jadeja ended with 37 runs in the final over as Chennai Super Kings reached 191/4. He was not done yet. With the ball, he got the wickets of Washington Sundar, Glenn Maxwell, and AB de Villiers. The ball to de Villiers spun across and had the legend flummoxed.

To add the cherry to the icing, he ran out Daniel Christian in a grand way to ensure Chennai Super Kings won the match. RCB was totally blown away by Ravindra Jadeja.

Kartik Tyagi’s brilliance in the final over against Punjab Kings

Punjab Kings had made it a habit to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. In IPL 2020, Punjab Kings could not score one run in the final two balls against Delhi Capitals. They lost in the Super Over. Now, against Rajasthan Royals in IPL 2021, they scripted yet another way of getting beaten.

Rajasthan Royals had notched up 185, with Arshdeep Singh taking a five-wicket haul. KL Rahul and Mayank Agarwal had put Punjab Kings on course for a big win. They needed eight runs to win off two overs. The predictor had even put Punjab Kings at a 100 percent winning chance. The 19th over bowled by Mustafizur Rahman yielded just four runs. Still, Punjab Kings needed four runs off the final over.

Kartik Tyagi stepped up and delivered a final over for the ages. He dismissed Nicholas Pooran and Deepak Hooda. Three runs were needed off the last ball. Tyagi delivered a perfect yorker and Rajasthan Royals had won by two runs. It was the ultimate choke and Houdini act from Punjab Kings, who kept their campaign alive.

Sanju Samson’s century and the refusal to take a single

If one thought that the Punjab Kings’ ultimate botch was the peak, the seeds of absurdity had already been sown in the first game between the two sides. KL Rahul blasted 91 and Deepak Hooda responded with 64 off 28 balls as Punjab Kings reached 221/4.

Sanju Samson played one of the best knocks in the IPL as he showed his full range of strokes. Samson scored a brilliant century and it seemed Rajasthan Royals would secure an epic win. Rajasthan Royals needed 13 runs off the final over to be bowled by Arshdeep Singh. The bowler conceded just two runs in the first three balls as the equation became slightly difficult.

Samson blasted a six as the equation boiled down to five runs off two balls. On the fifth ball, he drilled a drive to extra cover but he refused to take the single. The decision did not please Morris, who was bought by the Rajasthan Royals franchise for a record Rs 16.25 crore. It was understood if the batsman at the other end was a genuine tailender. But, Morris had finished games for South Africa. Samson tried something extravagant but he was caught on the boundary off the last ball. Rajasthan Royals lost by four runs but the result could have been different had Samson taken the single. Who knows what would have happened under pressure.

Ruturaj Gaikwad’s audacity against Jasprit Bumrah

The slog sweep is an impactful stroke against the spinners. But, what if a batsman employs it against a bowler who bowls at close to 150 kmph? The result can be spectacular. This is what Ruturaj Gaikwad did against Jasprit Bumrah in the opening game of the resumption.

Chennai Super Kings were in trouble as they were reeling at 24/4. Ravindra Jadeja and Ruturaj Gaikwad were in fine form as they slowly stitched a partnership. Gaikwad grew in confidence and went past his fifty. It was his fourth consecutive fifty in the UAE. Gaikwad stayed till the end and notched up a brilliant 88. The highlight of the innings was when the batsman unleashed a slog sweep against Jasprit Bumrah. The world’s best bowler was dealt a big blow as he was deposited into the stands.

The knock by Gaikwad ensured Chennai Super Kings won against Mumbai Indians. This was the knock and the match that perhaps deflated Mumbai Indians in their IPL campaign.

Mumbai Indians fail to qualify for the playoffs

The Mumbai Indians had established a level of dominance in the IPL that was unprecedented. They had won five IPL titles and had set the benchmark high. When the IPL was held in India, they won three and lost three. But, when the tournament shifted to the UAE, they lost momentum in a big way.

They lost crucial matches to Royal Challengers Bangalore, Delhi Capitals, Chennai Super Kings and more crucially to Kolkata Knight Riders. This was KKR’s seventh win against Mumbai Indians and that probably hurt them more than the twin losses to RCB and DC. They tried to stage a late surge. They restricted Rajasthan Royals for 90 and chased it down in just the ninth over.

In their final league game, their prospects were not helped when Rajasthan Royals lost to Kolkata Knight Riders. They had to win by a big margin against Sunrisers Hyderabad. They had to win by 170 runs precisely. Ishan Kishan and Suryakumar Yadav displayed an exhibition of hitting as they both hit 80s. Mumbai Indians notched up 235 and for one moment, they had hope.

But, when Sunrisers Hyderabad went past 65, their playoff chances ended. Although they won the match, Mumbai Indians could not qualify for the playoffs for the first time since 2018.

Last ball six always a sweet deal

Whenever a team wins off the last ball with a six, it leaves a massive impact on the opposition. In the past, Royal Challengers Bangalore sealed the deal only once with a six off the last ball. In the Champions League T20, KB Arun Karthik hit a six against Dan Christian playing for the South Australia Redbacks to ensure that Royal Challengers Bangalore had achieved a remarkable win.

10 years later, history kind off repeated itself in thrilling fashion. The last league game between Delhi Capitals and Royal Challengers Bangalore saw plenty of action. Delhi Capitals were boosted by a magnificent performance from the top order as they reached 164/5. In response, Royal Challengers Bangalore lost Virat Kohli and Devdutt Padikkal cheaply. AB de Villiers tried to stage a comeback but he was dismissed for 26.

Glenn Maxwell and Srikar Bharat then went about rebuilding the innings. Bharat went about targeting the spinners and he benefited from a drop by Shreyas Iyer. Maxwell was also dropped by Ashwin as both players went past fifty. It was Maxwell’s sixth fifty in IPL 2021 but RCB needed 15 runs off the last over. Maxwell hit a four off Avesh Khan but six runs were needed off the last ball. Avesh bowled a wide. The extra ball proved costly as Bharat, pigeonholed as a Test specialist, blasted a six to ensure RCB ended the league stages on the ultimate high in IPL 2021.

Sportslumo Desk

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