Cricket, as the laymen and experts know, is a game of uncertainties. The results are intricately dependent on the smallest element of the game, a ball. The outcome of a game can be entirely opposite of what is expected, given that ball’s result.
Such situations are considered to be the finest examples of the game, speaking in terms of excitement, and are popularly known as the last ball. “Not often has the last ball been evident. But games where this does happen no longer remain just cricket games. They get etched as some outstanding instances in the audiences’ mind and enjoy an incomparable status.”
History has it that these games are very seldom, and the few ones that have surfaced, have generally produced strangely unexpected results. One match that stands out in this category was the one of India vs Pakistan where 5 runs were required off the last ball. Chetan Chauhan’s miscued Yorker ended as a full toss being slapped away for a 6 by Javed Miandad who instantly became a ‘national hero’. Such has been the fervor associated with it.
But the frequency of these kinds of matches increased to the extent of being regular phenomena with the Mumbai Indians of the IPL series. As many as three of their matches went down the wire to the last ball of the match, the decision getting delayed to the very last second.
Having started the series without their ace batsman and Captain Sachin Tendulkar, they lost all their opening 4 matches and seemed a wary team, doomed to be the worst one. But then came two consecutive victories and the debut of Sachin in the series with the tram’s 7 match and it suddenly became a different team overnight. Confidence and exuberance oozed out of the oldest players too, and the bunch represented an eager lot out to set the score right.
The team started winning matches: it was something of a miracle. However steep the target, they chased it down in a matter of few overs. The killing display of shots by Jayasuriya at the top of the order won them crucial games. Disciplined performance in terms of balling and fielding earned them precious victories. They won 6 matches on the trot and climbed up the standings becoming a potential team for the semi-finals.
Then came the match with Yuvraj’s Punjab team where they were to chase an uphill 190 in 20 overs at a rate of 9.5 runs per over. They batted steadily throughout, and remained always in the hunt and quite comfortably so. A determined innings by Sachin for 65 runs placed the team in a good position. But after his dismissal, the team lost the way and players kept getting run out, receding from the asking rate. It came down to the last over, needing 19 runs to win. But some blasting batting ensured only two off the last to win or 1 to tie and 1 wicket left. Of course, they went for a run, with the ball in Yuvi’s hand in the covers. He darted it towards the stumps and ousted the wickets diving from quite a distance, dismissing the batsmen and the match. Thus, a much deserved win was denied only at the last ball.
Another such result came of the next match where this team was balling and could not save 15 runs off the last over. The last ball was hit straight back softly towards the bowler Dilhara Fernando who somehow managed to miss that one and let the ball roll slowly to the deep while the batsmen completed the two runs.
The next one was a do-or-die match for the Mumbai team to qualify for the semis and they fared not so well having to bat first. They put a target of 146 in 20 overs, which seemed easily attainable. But even then, some disciplined balling pulled the match to the last over of the match, and again they managed to lose what seemed an easy victory.
This destroyed any chance of their qualifying and almost truncated the team’s progress. Experts and teams-men too believe, that the continuous loss on the last ball was not only circumstantial but influenced by lady luck. It had got something to do with the cricket that was put on display. There must have been similar errors repeated that produced the same results. If players of one day or a 20-20 match can’t hold their nerves, they certainly need an upgrade. But for the record, one of the strongest contenders of the game stands as a spectator for the rest of the series and alas it is so.