Mumbai Indians were the defending IPL champions, but their performance in the UAE leg of the tournament barely lent justice to that seeding. Five successive losses were how they began their campaign but since the shift to India, Mumbai knocked off seven wins, the last of which was achieved facing humongous odds and in an incredible blaze of glory.
The equation before them was 190 in 14.3 overs. By the end of the 10th over, Mumbai were tackling a required rate of 15.5. But Corey Anderson's frenetic 44-ball 95 kept Wankhede rumbling. It became 9 off 3 balls and Anderson was stranded in the non-strikers' end after failing to beat long-off.
Ambati Rayudu lurched between euphoria and agony when he struck the next ball - a leg stump full toss from James Faulkner - for six but then was run out looking for the winning runs. He sank to his knees thinking Mumbai had fallen short of the playoffs. The 14.3 overs were up and Mumbai could only tie with the target. However, the net-run rate equation allowed for one more ball, one more shot for the home side. If this was sent to the boundary, they would progress. In came Aditya Tare and smote another leg-stump full toss over square leg to cue manic celebrations.
"We showed today that nothing is impossible," said the Mumbai captain Rohit Sharma, "A performance like this doesn't come everyday. This is for the people of Mumbai and our supporters all across [the world]. Anderson was just unbelievable. The kind of shots he played was amazing, and Rayudu came in and played a little cameo there, and hats off to Tare because hitting a six in the last ball and it was simply superb."
Rohit said his team had been inspired by their recent Champions League T20 triumph. After an initial loss and one game rained out, Mumbai required a perfect sheet to get into the final and that is what they accomplished to complete the double of a CLT20 title to go along with the IPL.
"We did it in the Champions League too. We were in the same situation to qualify [for the final], so we had that belief in ourselves that we can do it and we proved it today. At the start of the tournament I said that this team has got all the potential to come out and perform like that and we showed it tonight. The first half is done [having qualified for the playoffs]. The remaining half is still there so brighter things are yet to come."
Anderson, on whom Mumbai shelled $750,000, never found his feet in the tournament. Noted for his power-hitting, his strike rate languished at 118 until the night that mattered most for his side. He came out with the score on 19 for 1 and relied solely on his power to enact one of the most poignant victories in seven years for Mumbai. Anderson believed the energy of a roaring Wankhede spurred their side towards victory as that 14.3-over mark approached.
"Little bit before [the last 10 balls] some of them started realising we've got a chance here," Anderson said. "I think it gave hope to us in the middle and to the boys in the change room as well. It was just nice to be out there when it all finished as well.
"I'm glad I could do something to bring them [Mumbai supporters] to their feet. Some other boys played some massive knocks tonight. Rayudu came in and smashed it and that last ball from Tare as well. It sort of never stopped the whole way.
"It was just about staying still and backing yourself. I think when you complicate things is when it starts getting frustrating and you miss balls and I think I did that a couple of ones near the end. It's a pretty special feeling to do it in front of the home crowd."
Rajasthan Royals had entered this match requiring a victory, or a narrow-enough loss to pip their opponents on net run-rate. They were noticeably buoyed when Michael Hussey and the dangerous Kieron Pollard were sent back in the sixth over. But in the face of a steady onslaught, the bowlers unravelled and the dugout grew tenser as they watched ball after poor ball being clobbered to the boundary. Rahul Dravid, the team mentor, said they could not execute their lengths but conceded reining a man like Anderson after he had got on a roll was always going to be difficult.