34 off 6 balls. 63 from 19 balls. Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
Some times Mahendra Singh Dhoni takes a few deliveries to get set. He pushes and prods for ones and twos until he has the pitch and the bowlers figured out and only then does he take them on. This was not one of those times.
Despite the best efforts of Suresh Raina, Chennai Super Kings had laboured to 115 for 3 in the 15th over against Sunrisers Hyderabad in Ranchi. On a good batting wicket and facing the prospect of bowling with the dew, Dhoni would have known CSK needed something special over the last half dozen overs. And something special was just what his hometown crowd got.
With JP Duminy bowling, Dhoni plonked his left foot down the track and swung the second ball straight back into the crowd. It would turn out to be the warning shot fired across the Sunrisers bow.
Dhoni didn’t get much of the strike for the next couple of overs. He faced four deliveries from which he scored four runs, all singles. At the start of the 18th over, bowled by Thisara Perera, he had 11 from 7. CSK were 141 for 3 at that stage and looked like they would post a score around 170.
But Perera, intimidated by Dhoni’s reputation as a finisher, started with a wide down legside. The first legal delivery showed why. Dhoni sent Perera deep into the stands behind long-on. That was, unsurprisingly, followed by another wide as Perera tried to figure out how to bowl to Dhoni in the death overs.
He would fail to do so.
Dhoni failed to get hold of a low full toss but a misfield from Ishant at midwicket would allow a second run. It would turn out to be a crucial error. A second low full toss followed that was turned over fine leg for another six. Dhoni then made it three sixes from four balls when he carved a good length delivery over point. That quickly became four out of five as Perera gave him width to free his arms and Dhoni sent the ball flying back over the bowler – 101 metres to be exact – and deep into the stands.
The final ball was short and outside offstump and Dhoni kept his head to help its on its way and over the third man boundary. He had plundered 34 runs from the over, and raced to 43 from 13 balls. The crowd was going wild and the match had been turned on its head.
Dhoni wasn’t done either. He drove a Dale Steyn full toss in the next over to the fence for four from one of the two deliveries he faced, then reached his fifty with a couple off Darren Sammy from the first ball of the final over, breaking the record for the fastest fifty in the CLT20. It had taken just 16 balls (Kieron Pollard having needed 18 balls to set the previous record). He celebrated by slicing Sammy over cover for six. The bowler put his hands on his head and gave Dhoni a disbelieving smile. Dhoni simply repeated the dose the next ball. Full and wide outside off and in this mood, Dhoni was never going to need a second invitation.
A single off the penultimate ball of the innings completed the scoring for Dhoni and took CSK to 200. He had plundered 63 from 19 balls, with eight sixes and a four as 61 runs came from the last three overs.
A Sunrisers bowling attack that had controlled 70% of the innings had been ruthlessly and brutally dismembered. Sammy’s three overs cost 39; poor Perera’s cost 60.
In CSK’s opening game, Dhoni had failed to finish things off. When asked about it in the post match press conference, Raina said winning the match was important and there were two more matches when “you will see his [Dhoni’s] toofani (hurricane) batting”.
Sadly for Hyderabad, that turned out to be a significant understatement.