All-star of the match

Sam Billings was expected to play in the last match, and he was expected to open after being picked to play this one. When Ambati Rayudu continued to partner Shane Watson at the top, Billings was expected to come in at No. 4. MS Dhoni came in instead, leaving Billings to play the finisher's role. That's an unfamiliar position for any player in the same team as Dhoni, but he validated that belief with 56 off 23 balls in a steep chase that Super Kings were in danger of throwing away in the middle overs.

When Billings came in, it appeared like the pitch had begun assisting the spinners - Super Kings' required rate was slowly rising over 12 and Dhoni's strike rate had rapidly fallen. According to ESPNcricinfo's Smart Strike Rate calculations, based on the context of the match and the pace of other batsmen, Dhoni should have scored 24 more runs in the 28 balls he faced. Billings, therefore, had a lot of making up to do.

And he did it expertly. He made 20 off 12 against the three spinners, stepping down the track constantly and nudging them through midwicket with soft hands, or, as was the case in the 14th over, cutting late off the pitch to get Dhoni on strike which effectively ended Kuldeep Yadav's spell.

Against seam, he cashed in big time with five sixes to different parts of the ground, often hanging deep in the crease to give himself extra room against Andre Russell and Tom Curran until he was dismissed in the 19th over. But like Dwayne Bravo had done the other night, Billings had got them close enough. And unlike his effort for the Sydney Sixers in the Big Bash League earlier this year, this innings brought the win.

The wow moment

Billings had hit an exquisite extra cover drive for six off Tom Curran in the 15th over. Then, he brought one out in the 18th over that might not have matched the former for grace, but certainly trumped it for audacity. It was the third ball of the 18th over - Russell's last. It was a low full toss on middle stump and Billings decided to bring out the ramp. The problem was that he seemed to be late on it; but just as it had passed the line of his body, he managed to get the bat under it and send the ball sailing over the fine leg boundary.

The numbers

  • Billings made 56 off 23 and during his stay, Dhoni and Ravindra Jadeja made a combined 22 off 20 at the other end. In the context of this chase, Billings' Smart Strike Rate was 335.16 - much more than his actual strike rate of 243.47
  • Billings strikes at 9.59 runs per over in the slog overs, but it's the phase he has least experience in: he has only played 404 balls between the 16th and 20th overs, as opposed to 481 in the Powerplay and 993 in the middle overs.
  • The reaction

    "It was a pleasure to play in a team of legends - with Raina, Dhoni and Harbhajan. Mike Hussey's batting coach as well, so need to learn as much as I can from these guys. We keep options in our head, but you have to keep three different plans in place. We showed in the first game, that if you take the game deep, then it's never really lost. Raina, Dhoni, Jadeja in the middle-order are big hitters. We knew no target is out of reach with this batting team."
    Sam Billings

    Varun Shetty is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo