Kohli's run-spree and Morris' manic assault
Royal Challengers Bangalore were 173 for 1 with 18 balls to go and they might have been happy with another 57 runs off those. That's more than three runs per ball. But such numbers don't satisfy Virat Kohli. He alone made 57 runs to sprint from 52 to 109 off the last 14 balls he faced, for his third IPL century. He had played second fiddle to AB de Villiers for most of the innings but took over after that. He started with cover drives and cut loose when Shivil Kaushik was introduced. The chinaman bowler sent down one half-tracker after another and Kohli kept feasting to hammer Kaushik for 30 runs in the penultimate over of Royal Challengers Bangalore's innings.
Kohli needed nine stitches on his left hand after an injury while fielding against Kolkata Knight Riders on May 16. On May 18, he opened against Kings XI Punjab in a 15-over shootout and he batted for just over an hour. In that time, he scored his fourth and fastest T20 century. He didn't spare Sandeep Sharma and Mohit Sharma, Kings XI's in-form bowlers, initially and later took on anyone who came his way, especially KC Cariappa. Flighted or flat, full or short, Kohli unleashed powerful sweeps and showed exemplary use of the wrists to collect eight sixes and 12 fours.
Virat Kohli had played a near-unbelievable innings while chasing 161 against Australia in the World T20 when other batsmen faltered. The task was tough as well when Royal Challengers had to chase 192 against Rising Pune Supergiants. Chris Gayle was dropped, and AB de Villiers fell for 1. Kohli, in the company of KL Rahul and Shane Watson, smoked an unbeaten 108 off 58 and made that chase look routine. He relied on technically correct shots, one after the other. He drove along the ground and over the fielders. He then plundered sixes at will when the chase got tense and became the quickest batsman to 500 runs in an IPL season.
If there's one batsman who doesn't take any time to get going, it's AB de Villiers. Even though Praveen Kumar and Dhawal Kulkarni bowled with impressive control initially, de Villiers freed himself when he saw the spinners. He took charge and unleashed his full repertoire of sweeps, lofts and drives by utilising the crease and sent the ball flying more often to the leg side. A 25-ball was fifty was followed by a 43-ball hundred and de Villiers blazed away to 129*, the highest individual score of IPL 2016.
Million-dollar-man Chris Morris walked out to bat when Delhi Daredevils needed 116 off 56. And, as if straight from the oven, he walloped the third-fastest fifty in IPL, off 17 balls. He hit an unbeaten 82 off 32, but ended on the losing side in what was probably the most dramatic game of the season. He started off by launching his second ball well over long-off for the first of his eight sixes. The trick to his boundary-hitting was to get under the ball and power it into the stands.
David Warner was in such form in IPL 2016 that when faced with an opponent, the Australia opener would punch them out of the way with disdain. In a crucial match, the Qualifier 2, Warner did exactly that against Gujarat Lions while chasing 163 even though he was running out of partners. Usually Warner bats in such a way that he likes to take bowlers on from the beginning. On this night, he had to carefully steer the chase and change gears whenever the asking rate would climb. Thanks to an able lower-order ally in Bipul Sharma, Warner's eighth half-century of the season didn't go in vain. The win put Sunrisers in their maiden IPL final.
The best bowling figures of IPL 2016 and second best in all IPLs ended in a losing cause. It was one of those rare days when David Warner didn't fire, and Australian legspinner Adam Zampa made sure no other batsman went past the 30s. His legspin cramped batsmen for room, and accuracy, with blockhole deliveries, and purchase from the pitch accounted for six wickets in the last five overs of Sunrisers Hyderabad's innings, starting with a googly against Yuvraj Singh. Kane Williamson and Moises Henriques gave catches off consecutive balls. Deepak Hooda, Naman Ojha and Bhuvneshwar Kumar then fell in the last over of the innings but Ashish Nehra defended 13 runs off the last over of the match and stole the limelight from Zampa.
The Knight Riders batsmen saw through two overs of Praveen Kumar's swing without any damage. Dhawal Kulkarni's first two overs went for 22 runs. And then came Dwayne Smith in the Powerplay. He bowled in the channel around off, got extra bounce, and got the ball to move to trick three batsmen within the first 10 overs. Manish Pandey and Robin Uthappa were caught behind, Piyush Chawla was bowled and Smith had Shakib Al Hasan caught at third man with a short ball. Smith finished with career-best T20 figures of 4-0-8-4, including 18 dot balls.
Kings XI had already lost M Vijay to a run-out and Amit Mishra accounted for their overseas batsmen all by himself. He was the fifth bowler used within seven overs and removed Shaun Marsh with his first ball. Mishra flighted it above the eyeline and had the batsman stumped. In his next over, he foxed David Miller with a googly and forced Maxwell to hole out to long-off for a duck. Opener Manan Vohra had trudged along into the 30s by now but a googly had him too. Three overs and figures of 4 for 11, not a bad way to celebrate your 100th IPL match.
The league stage was approaching its end and Mumbai Indians needed some wins. A familiar situation. They needed something special at their second home in Visakhapatnam and Krunal Pandya delivered. He exhibited a spectacular show of power-hitting by plundering 86 runs off 37 balls, mainly targeting the spinners. Against two legspinners, Amit Mishra and Imran Tahir, and the left-arm spinner, Shahbaz Nadeem, Krunal, batting at No. 3, prospered by hitting in the arc between deep midwicket and long-on. Even googlies from Amit Mishra and Imran Tahir were heaved across the line. Krunal also used the slog sweep to good effect to help set the platform for a 200-plus score that Daredevils could not even come close to.
Axar Patel took four wickets in five balls, including the only hat-trick of IPL 2016. Kings XI were not having a great season and they were up against then table-toppers Gujarat Lions. In the seventh over, Axar dismissed Dwayne Smith on the third ball and then bowled Dinesh Karthik and Dwayne Bravo off consecutive deliveries to reduce them to 39 for 5. When he came back in the 11th over, Axar had Jadeja stumped and his burst made the score 57 for 6 to set up the 23-run win.
On a slow and gripping pitch in Visakhapatnam, Marcus Stoinis grabbed four wickets with his stump-to-stump line and pace variations. Once Unmukt Chand and Ambati Rayudu fell for ducks, Stoinis came on as the second-change and removed Sachin Rana with a cutter. Soon, he got bigger wickets when Jos Buttler and Krunal Pandya holed out, and Kieron Pollard heaved and missed a quicker ball on the stumps. That reduced Mumbai to 103 for 7 and fifties from M Vijay and Wriddhiman Saha did the rest for Kings XI.
Vishal Dikshit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo