We polled our staff for their picks of the top ten best batting, bowling and all-round performances in the IPL through its history. Here's No. 9
"It was basically an impossible feat to do."
That's Corey Anderson recounting what the Mumbai Indians were faced with against the Rajasthan Royals in IPL 2014. With a playoff spot at stake, they needed to chase down 190 in 14.3 overs for their net run rate to get where it needed to be. It was an asking rate of more than 13 an over. No wonder it felt impossible.
The abiding memory from this game will always remain that of Aditya Tare - his face covered with his shirt - going berserk after hitting the winning six, and the Royals' mentor, Rahul Dravid, flinging his cap down in the dugout in disgust. But the man who did the impossible was Anderson.
Before this match, he had scored only 150 runs in nine innings that season in the tournament. An average of 18.75 and a strike rate of 118.11 meant he had lost his place in the playing XI. But this was the last league game of the season and knowing they needed more batting firepower if they were to get to the required net run rate, they replaced fast bowler Marchant de Lange with Anderson.
One thing with impossible-looking tasks is that they are also liberating in a way. When failure is almost certain, there is no pressure to succeed. Anderson benefited from being in that sort of situation. Vindicating Mumbai's decision to bring him back, he smashed an unbeaten 95 off 44 balls to help them pull off arguably the biggest heist in IPL history.
Earlier, the Royals had ransacked 130 in the last ten overs of their innings, with Sanju Samson and Karun Nair scoring half-centuries, and Brad Hodge and James Faulkner applying the finishing touches. Watching them would have given Anderson some ideas about how to bat on that pitch.
The Royals didn't have an enviable bowling attack but the equation for Mumbai was bizarre. How bizarre? Lendl Simmons struck three fours in the first over of the chase, and they were still below the asking rate.
Coming in at 19 for 1, Anderson struck the first ball he faced for four and the next for six. Soon after, Kevon Cooper dismissed Mike Hussey and Kieron Pollard in the fifth over but Anderson was unstoppable. With a six off Dhawal Kulkarni, he raced to 52 in just 25 balls; 42 of those runs came in boundaries.
What followed was an even more extraordinary phase of hitting as Ambati Rayudu and Anderson added 81 in just 31 balls for the fifth wicket. Anderson's contribution was 49 off 21 balls, Rayudu's 30 off ten.
In all, Anderson struck nine fours and six sixes. His method was simple: clear the front leg and swing through. Anything pitched fuller than short of a length fell right into his hitting arc. And when he swung, the Wankhede looked the size of a matchbox.
Two fours off Faulkner and Pravin Tambe in the 11th and 14th overs exemplified Anderson's power. Faulkner bowled a slower ball on leg stump; Anderson backed away and belted it past the bowler. Tambe bowled a faster one and was thumped over his head. Both bowlers tried to stop the ball but must have considered themselves lucky not to have come in the way of it.
Apart from the clean hitting, Anderson picked his spots well. Against Pravin Tambe, he mainly targeted the midwicket region, while the seamers were largely pummelled down the ground.
When you're looking to hit each ball to the boundary, mishits are almost inevitable: Anderson wasn't in control of 16 of the 44 balls he faced. But he scored 87 off the 28 balls in which he was in control - which means there were hardly any lucky runs.
Despite Anderson's onslaught, Mumbai had only brought themselves level in 14.3 overs. There was a sigh of relief in the Royals camp; some in the dugout began to celebrate too. But there was a twist left.
It turned out Mumbai could still qualify if they hit a boundary off the next three balls, and Tare launched the very next one, a leg-stump full toss from Faulkner, over deep-backward square leg, resulting in frenzied scenes.
Suddenly, Mumbai had a shot at the title.
Hemant Brar is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo