Mahendra Singh Dhoni single-handedly defeated Kings XI Punjab with a last ball six to help his team Rising Pune Supergiants avoid a last-place finish in the Indian Premier League (IPL) on Saturday.
Chasing 173, Pune never looked in contention, but Dhoni played the lone ranger with an unbeaten 32-ball 64 to secure an improbable win for the debutants. Pune looked down and out at 86 for five in the 14th over before Dhoni brought out his best and smashed five sixes and four boundaries.Needing 23 runs in the last over, Dhoni struck three sixes and a four. In the last ball of the match, RPS required six for victory and the captain lofted one over the midwicket boundary.
The knock has left RPS coach Stephen Fleming awestruck. He said that the Dhoni’s ‘remarkable’ knock has somewhat covered the dismal season.
“I think Dhoni is pretty remarkable, which probably covered up the performances that were below par,” Stephen Fleming said. “While we chased down 170, we were stuttering along. But individual brilliance helped us crossed the line. What we have been missing through the campaign were the special moments where players play match-winning innings. Steve Smith played a couple. MS [Dhoni] played one here. We have been good, but we were not outstanding. MS was outstanding and that is the difference between winning and losing.”
Speaking about the incident in the last over when Dhoni refused to take a single, Fleming said: “I have not seen that before. There might have been times that gets out of reach for the other players, today he took it upon himself in winning the game. If you don’t get across the line, you analyse it. But again, he had unbelievable faith and ability to do it. He might have done that with India but I have not seen it in my time with Dhoni. That was part of an extraordinary effort.
“From finishing point of view, Dhoni has been frustrated. I think that (knock) will go a long way today to give him more confidence. He has been working very hard in the nets. He knew the role he plays is to win games in the back end. We have lost games that we should have won and we won a game here today that we should not have won. That is the nature of T20 but we showed today that we still have that brilliance, we still have the ability to clear the rope when needed. I dare say that it was a vintage performance in the sense that we have seen that and come to expect that high standard. We certainly achieved that and exceeded that today.”
The loss condemned KXIP to the last position in the league.Their coach Sanjay Bangar expressed his disappointment over the loss and said Dhoni’s effort helped Supergiants clinch a victory from a position where most bowling sides would have been seen as favourites.
“We were wanting to end the season with a win but MS [Dhoni] actually took the match away from us. The execution at times wasn’t really great. Mohit Sharma fought back really well by bowling the 19th over, executed his yorkers well and gave the bowler a chance in the 20th over. I don’t really want to pinpoint any individual, but the execution wasn’t really great and we failed to finish a lot of key games wherein the game hung in the balance.”
“Every game, we competed really well, but couldn’t really close games. The three games which come to my mind are the KKR game, wherein we lost by five or six runs, and then the Royal Challengers game wherein we lost by one run. And again (today) if you’ve got 24 (23) to defend in the last over, obviously you’ll give the bowling team a big, big chance to come out winners. But that was not to be. Basically, those three losses really hurt us, they were really, really close games and had we won those close games, we would have been higher up on the table,” Bangar said.