Yesterday marked the end of the group stages of the IPL 2021 season and we have Delhi Capitals on the first spot, Chennai Super Kings 2nd, Royal Challengers Bangalore are third, while Kolkata Knight Riders contrived to finish fourth.
However, to reach here, we got to witness some astonishing games that went down till the wire. Today, we will have a look at the best group stage games of this season, the Second phase specifically.
1) Punjab Kings vs Rajasthan Royals (Match 32, 21st September 2021)
A Kartik Tyagi masterclass commenced with Punjab Kings winning the toss and elected to bowl first. Rajasthan scored 185 in 20 overs, courtesy of contributions from Evin Lewis (36), Yashasvi Jaiswal (49), and Mahipal Lomror (43).
In response, Punjab started strongly but they lost their opening pair in back-to-back overs, putting the pressure back on Punjab. However, Aiden Markram and Nicholas Pooran settled the ship before it started sinking.
After some great display of batting, Mustafizur Rahman bowled an exceptional penultimate over, giving away just four runs.
Punjab needed four off the last over and with the two batsmen on the crease, the game seemed to have settled. However, Kartik Tyagi had other plans. Not only did he start with a fantabulous yorker, after a single on the second but Tyagi also struck and got Pooran dismissed when Punjab needed just three off four balls.
Deepak Hooda, the next batsman started with a dot, trying to tickle a wide ball eventually convincing the umpire not to adjudge the delivery as a wide.
On the next ball, he dismissed Hooda and Punjab were suddenly inside a cave. They required three of the last delivery and Tyagi bowled an inch-perfect yorker to conclude Punjab's innings and win the points for Rajasthan.
2) Chennai Super Kings vs Kolkata Knight Riders (Match 38, 26th September 2021)
The Sheikh Zayed Stadium hosted this match and Kolkata were batting first after winning the toss. They finished their innings with 171 on the board, with Rahul Tripathi as their highest scorer with 45 runs.
Chennai had a great start, with Ruturaj Gaikwad and Faf du Plessis batting like never before as Chennai were above the 70-run mark in just the ninth over. However, the same over saw Gaikwad's dismissal (40).
After a couple of overs, Faf was dismissed too on 43 and Chennai started to feel some pressure. However, things escalated quickly as another couple overs later, they lost their third wicket, Moeen Ali for 32 and Chennai were now 119/3 in the 15th over.
They needed over 50 runs in the last five overs but they couldn't put things to bed early as the wickets kept falling.
However, "Sir" Ravindra Jadeja put Chennai right back in the game after smashing Prasidh Krishna for 21 runs, as Chennai needed just four off the final over.
Sunil Narine was the bowler who started the over with a wicket, dismissing Sam Curran, followed by a Shardul Thakur, who was completely stunned by Narine's spin.
However, the third ball saw some innovation as Thakur scooped the ball to fine leg, picking three runs and ascertained Chennai's win, at least as per 95% people.
But there was more drama to unfold as he bowled a dot to Jadeja on the fourth ball, followed by an LBW dismissal to send Jadeja back to the pavilion. Chennai needed 1 off the last bowl and believe it or not, Chennai escaped a loss after Deepak Chahar managed to hit the ball out of the circle and steal the single. What a nail-biter that was!
3) Delhi Capitals vs Chennai Super Kings (Match 50, 4th October 2021)
The Dubai International Cricket Stadium held this high-profile fixture as the top two faced each other. Delhi were bowling first after winning the toss and their decision proved to be fantastic as they restricted a dynamic Chennai batting to just 136. That was also courtesy of Ambati Rayudu who helped Chennai to reach the total with his vital 55.
Delhi had a decent start but they swiftly fell off the radar and were 99/6 by the end of the 15th over.
However, Shimron Hetmyer helped his side from facing a defeat as he kept the scoreboard ticking, with Delhi requiring just 6 off the last over, with Dwayne Bravo bowling his second over after his first one went for 12 runs.
Hetmyer managed a double of the first ball and a single from a wide to follow, leaving Delhi with just 2 more runs off the last five balls. Axar Patel was on the strike and Bravo bowled a dot, and then picked his wicket on the third ball, putting the pressure back on Delhi.
However, the table-toppers ascertained their spot at the top with Kagiso Rabada scoring a four that felt more like a gift as Delhi won the match by three wickets. The group stages had a fairytale ending written in their fate as the two other games were employed simultaneously on the last day of the group stage.
4) Mumbai Indians vs Sunrisers Hyderabad (Match 55, October 8 2021)
After Kolkata's NRR boosting win against Rajasthan, Mumbai Indians did not just need a win but they had to win the match by at least 170 runs to make it to the playoffs.
Mumbai Indians won the toss and were batting first in Abu Dhabi. Without a doubt, they had the best start of their season or perhaps in their IPL history as Ishan Kishan exploded from ball 1.
Mumbai lost their first wicket and their skipper in the sixth over, with 80 runs already on the board, all thanks to Ishan Kishan.
After some great shots, Hardik Pandya departed too, with Mumbai now 113/2 in the ninth over. Wickets kept falling but the plan was simple, to score as much as you can.
Mumbai Indians finished their batting with 235 runs on the board, with huge credit to Suryakumar Yadav who scored 82 from just 40 balls, helping Mumbai to keep the scoreboard racing despite the wickets falling from one end.
Mumbai needed to win the match by 170 runs or more to qualify for the playoffs but that dream was shattered after Sunrisers Hyderabad started equally well.
Sunrisers Hyderabad lost their first wicket on 64, Jason Roy who had already done his job as Mumbai Indians had no chances of qualifying. However, Manish Pandey, the match's skipper for SRH kept the scoreboard moving and kept the chase alive.
However, after Abhishek Sharma's dismissal, no batsman managed to contribute much and help their team to record a classic chase. Pandey was unbeaten for 69 but Sunrisers lost the match by 42 runs but they did deny the defending champions a way to make it to the playoffs.
5) Delhi Capitals vs Royal Challengers Bangalore (Match 56, October 8th 2021)
Another match on the same day and at the same time didn't disappoint us either as it made us wait until the final delivery to find the winner.
Delhi batted first, scoring 164, except for the opening pair, only Shimron Hetmyer managed to make some vital contributions, while Dhawan and Prithvi Shaw scored 48 and 43 respectively.
RCB had 165 to chase but their start was shambolic, as they lost both Devdutt Padikkal and Virat Kohli in the first and third overs.
However, this was a day for another RCB batsman to shine alongside course, Glenn Maxwell who has been in exquisite form this season.
Srikar Bharat held one end, while AB De Villiers held the other, but after De Villiers was dismissed, Maxwell took charge.
After being dropped twice, Maxwell scored his sixth 50 of this season but kudos to Bharat who scored the winning runs when RCB required five off the last ball, and Bharat hit it for a six.
Some might say that it was a juicy full toss but it still needed the elevation and nerves to execute it perfectly on the last ball of the innings. Bharat scored 78, while Maxwell scored 51. The duo was unbeaten as they concluded the group stages in style.
A couple of days later, we have the qualifier 1 lined up, with Delhi Capitals playing Chennai Super Kings in Dubai. What do you think? Who has the upper hand? Especially after both sides lost their final group stage match?
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