Welcome to the series where we present you a moment, a game in history that has shaped the way the sport has been played, in our weekly segment ‘Throwback Thursday.' This week, we revisit one of the all-time great finishes in the IPL, the Dwayne Smith blitzkrieg that punched a hole in CSK hearts.
It’s May 6, 2012, and we’re at the Wankhede stadium in Mumbai, where a sea of blue is going ballistic. 33,000 people, all unable to control their emotions, have their hopes solely rest on one man, Dwayne Smith, who is one mighty hit away from immortalizing himself as a cult-hero for the biggest franchise in world cricket. The equation is simple: Mumbai need 4 off the last ball to pull off one of the biggest heists in cricketing history. Phlegmatic, unphased, and focused as ever, Smith taps his bat down one final time and locks his eyes firmly on the bowler Ben Hilfenhaus, who is one non-execution away from being on the wrong side of history.
But before we play out the final ball, it is important to go back and revisit the chain of events that led to this nail-biting finish.
To say CSK were outright favourites heading into IPL 2012 would be a grave understatement. After having won their maiden IPL title in 2010 after knocking on the door in 2008 and 2009, the Super Kings went into a league of their own. First, they dominated the 2010 Champions League T20 that followed their maiden IPL victory, and then, the following year, they mauled every single side in the competition to clinch their second consecutive IPL title. So dominant were CSK in 2011 that in the final, they made the most feared side in the tournament, RCB, look like a half-baked school side. So, understandably, no one dared to look beyond CSK for their choice of champion for IPL 2012.
However, things did not go according to plan for Dhoni’s men at the start of the season. On the very first night of IPL 2012, they were humbled by Mumbai Indians in their own backyard and a week later, they were once again pummeled by a rampant Delhi Daredevils, who schooled the defending champions. So, much to their horror, the Super Kings, as early as week one, were playing catch-up.
To Dhoni’s disappointment, there was no drastic turnaround but after hustling and bustling and slogging out matches in trademark CSK fashion, the Men in Yellow, somehow, made their way up to the fourth spot, with 11 points to their name in 11 matches. So with a playoff spot looking seemingly distant, particularly with Delhi and Kolkata punching above their weight, awaiting CSK in Match 12 at the Wankhede was the Mumbai Indians.
Now Mumbai Indians were considered by experts as ‘one of the favorites’ but they had every reason to stake a claim that they were ‘the favourite’. After winning their first major trophy six months ago, the CLT20 title on the back of the IPL 2011 disappointment, the Blues had sent out a message to the rest of the pack with their dismantling of CSK in Match 1.
They did not quite showcase the same dominance in the games that followed, but there were increasing signs that this was a side that was not going to settle for anything but triumph. Nothing epitomized this more or better than their one-run win over Pune in the Maharashtra derby, where they defended 120 to pull off a win from an improbable situation.
But while the mood in the camp was upbeat, what Mumbai needed was points and so despite sitting at 3rd spot with six wins from their first ten, the CSK clash that was to follow almost became a must-win encounter for the Harbhajan-led side. At stake was not just a top-two spot, which would give them a second bite of the cherry, but also a CLT20 spot, which was reserved for the Top 3.
So with CSK and MI separated by a solitary point, albeit with the former having played an extra game, their clash in Match 49 of IPL 2012 was essentially seen as a four-pointer. 3 vs 4; Mumbai vs Chennai; Sunday afternoon - the buildup and excitement heading into the encounter, understandably, was Brobdingnagian.
And, as has always been the case with MI vs CSK encounters, the game did not disappoint.
Mumbai, interestingly, put CSK into bat on a juicy Wankhede wicket and what followed in the first four overs was a cricketing exhibition. After Mumbai smartly deployed their bowlers in the first four overs - using all four of Robin Peterson, RP Singh, Malinga and Munaf Patel - Murali Vijay decided he’d had enough and cut loose in over 5, bowled by Munaf Patel, taking the right-arm seamer for 24 runs. Vijay perished soon after, but Raina and Bravo rode on the momentum and took CSK to a formidable position. The high, however, lasted only for a brief while as Malinga came back to choke the Men in Yellow at the death, restricting them to 173.
So heading into the chase with momentum on their side, Mumbai put the foot on the pedal in the chase. The Bambai duo of Sachin and Rohit, the master and the apprentice, produced a partnership for the ages and within a blink of an eye, the Blues were 134/1, needing just 40 off 25 with 9 wickets in hand.
But no CSK-MI clash can go by without a riveting twist, and thus, almost expectedly, this bout too, had one.
Much to the utter horror of the 33,000 supporters in the stadium waving the blue flag high with pride, Mumbai lost not one, not two, but SEVEN WICKETS in the span of 21 balls. The Blues’ batsmen, like a pack of cards, fell one by one in front of their home supporters, and in the span of 15 minutes, what was supposed to be a celebration quickly transformed into a mourning.
So as the Wankhede started getting quieter, and as the CSK players started getting more chirpier, one man stood in the middle as the last ray of hope for Mumbai: Dwayne Smith. A T20 nomad who generally plied his trade up the order, Smith was in the midst of his second stint with Mumbai. He had, prior to the CSK clash, only batted thrice for the Blues and that came at a time when Mumbai Indians had not yet become THE MUMBAI INDIANS.
So with time running out, having scampered at the crease for a handful of deliveries, the equation, in quotations, was laid out in front of Smith - 14 needed off 3 balls, two wickets in hand, Ben Hilfenhaus with the ball in hand. Three hits was the need of the hour. With one you have a 50-50 chance, with two the task is still doable but three? Almost no one gave the West Indian a chance.
But, thankfully for Mumbai, Smith was uncomplicated and exactly knew what he was there for - to win the game for his side. Pressure can do funny things, they say, and so with Mumbai needing 14 off the last 3, Ben Hilfenhaus, who’d had a flawless night prior to over 20, dished out two full tosses. Complicated men might have got themselves into a tangle but not Dwayne Smith. He was a simple man. Unflustered, the right-hander, straight as an arrow, dispatched the two full tosses for a six and a four and brought the equation down to 4 off the final ball.
So that brings us to the moment.
33,000 people at the Wankhede are on their feet, elated, brought back to life by a man who, prior to today, hadn’t held the bat in the IPL for over 2 years. His two boundaries have injected and instilled hope and belief, but every single soul in the stadium knows that all the frenzy would count for nothing should the next delivery not touch the boundary ropes. Dwayne Smith, whose facial expression has not changed since ball one, realizes that too, but more importantly knows that with one hit, he can not only take Mumbai closer to the playoffs but also propel his own career that has not taken off since his debut versus the Proteas 8 years ago. This is it.
Welcome to a moment in history