Mumbai, June 1, 2008
After six weeks of criss-crossing India, it had come down to this. The Rajasthan Royals, the most consistent team of the tournament, needed 12 runs from seven balls to clinch the inaugural Indian Premier League.
Makhaya Ntini had bowled a beautiful spell for the Chennai Super Kings, and as Shane Warne took guard, he faced the prospect that his carefully nurtured side of experienced campaigners and no-name youngsters might fall just short when it mattered most.
Before the tournament began, with Warne pushing 39 and few other stars in the ranks, the Royals had been many people's picks to bring up the basement. But after being thrashed out of sight by the Delhi Daredevils in their opening game, they had rallied superbly, stitching together two sequences of five wins on their way to topping the table.
Even a tragic bomb blast in Jaipur hadn't stemmed the momentum, with the team returning four days later to thump the Royal Challengers. There had been team-bonding trips to Goa, devastating new-ball spells from a little-known Pakistani, Sohail Tanvir, and supreme all-round displays from a man once more known for his injury woes and fear of ghosts, Shane Watson. But most of all there had been Warne's leadership, whether with the bat in Hyderabad or on umpteen occasions with the ball. By giving his wards nicknames like Pocket Rocket and Superstar, he inspired them to perform at a level that few thought them capable of.
As Ntini ran in, all of that was on the line. Warne saw it, sized it up, and a wristy twirl of those incredibly strong wrists sent the ball fizzing past cover for four. There were still eight needed, but there was a finality about the stroke that must have sunk Chennai hearts. He and Tanvir finished it with singles and a two, but when we look back, it's that Hollywood stroke we'll remember.
Dileep Premachandran is an associate editor at Cricinfo