Ever since its inception in 2008, the Indian Premier League has enthralled cricketing fans in India and the world over, with its glitz and glamour proving irresistible to young and old alike. The slam-bang nature of the T20 form of cricket has also helped the IPL skyrocket to the top of the popularity ratings when compared to other leagues around the world.
In the 11 years since it first started, the IPL has seen its fair share of exceptional team and individual performances, both from youngsters looking to break through, and from established international stars. In the bowling department, who can forget Sohail Tanvir breaking the back of the Chennai Super Kings' batting line-up in the inaugural edition of the tournament, with a scarcely believable 6 wickets for 14 runs, or Anil Kumble taking 5 for 5 at Newlands a year later?
When it comes to the extraordinary batting innings, we are spoilt for choice, to be quite frank. It is impossible to mention the IPL without bringing up Christopher Henry Gayle. The Jamaican's swashbuckling exploits for RCB over the years have been nothing short of spectacular, as he has notched up 5 centuries, the most destructive amongst them the 175 not out he scored against the Pune Warriors India in 2013. Other amazing innings include Brendon McCullum starting the IPL with a bang, smashing an unbeaten 158 in the very first IPL match, for the Kolkata Knight Riders against RCB, and Manish Pandey putting himself on the country's radar with a 114 not out at the age of just 19.
But today, we are here to celebrate the players who did these things when the pressure was on, when the opposition had racked up a massive total, when the match was a must-win, or when they had to dig their team out of a losing situation. Today, we countdown the top 5 centuries in successful chases in IPL history.
#5: Mahela Jayawardene (110*, 14x4, 3x6)
For: Kings XI Punjab
Against: Kolkata Knight Riders
Date: 4th April 2010
The third edition of the IPL was one to forget for the Kings XI Punjab and their fans. After finishing second in the table in the first season, and then missing out on a spot in the playoffs in 2009 only on net run rate, the men from Mohali slipped further by finishing rock-bottom of the league standings, winning only 4 out of their 14 games that year.
It seemed such a shame that a team that could call upon the services of internationally renowned players such as Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Brett Lee, Yuvraj Singh, Mohammed Kaif, Brett Lee and Ravi Bopara would suffer such a fate. However, in the 4 wins that they did manage to scrape together, one stood head and shoulders above the others.
On the 4th of April, the Kings XI travelled to the Eden Gardens to take on Sourav Ganguly's Kolkata Knight Riders, in what was a pivotal game for both sides. Punjab needed the win to break their losing streak, and for Kolkata, a win would see them move to fourth in the table. Ganguly won the toss and elected to bat first, and opened the innings with West Indian powerhouse Chris Gayle, whose 42-ball 88, along with solid 30s from his captain and youngster Manoj Tiwary powered Kolkata to a formidable 200/3 in their allotted 20 overs. Ravi Bopara received the most severe treatment, as he conceded 43 runs in his 3 overs. At this stage, it seemed that the losing streak would continue for Punjab.
Opening the innings with Manvinder Bisla, Jayawardene helped Punjab start well, staying with the required run rate, until Bisla was bowled by Murali Kartik in the fifth over, with the score at 51. Thereafter, Kumar Sangakkara came to the crease, and the two Sri Lankans put on 98 for the second wicket, with Jayawardene the more aggressive of the two, contributing 58 off 31 balls to the partnership. He ensured that only one KKR bowler, Shane Bond, had an economy rate below 10 runs an over as he displayed exquisite technique, combined with brute power to make his way to 110 off just 59 balls, dotted with 14 boundaries and 3 sixes.
In the company of a belligerent Yuvraj Singh (33* off 16 balls), Mahela made sure that Kings XI emerged victorious, knocking off the required target with 10 balls to spare, and giving his side a much needed boost in confidence.
#4: Paul Valthaty (120*, 19x4, 2x6)
For: Kings XI Punjab
Against: Chennai Super Kings
Date: 13th April 2011
Before 2011, few people would have even heard of Paul Valthaty, save for fans of the Rajasthan Royals, for whom he played a couple of games in 2009, or people who took a keen interest in the Mumbai cricketing circuit. Valthaty actually made the India's squad for the U-19 World Cup in 2002 with both Irfan Pathan and Parthiv Patel, but unfortunately suffered an injury against Bangladesh which kept him out for a significant period of time.
A primarily T20 player, having played just 5 first class matches for Mumbai, Valthaty was bought as an uncapped player by the Kings XI Punjab in the 2011 auction, with no one really taking notice of this particular move. He batted at number three in his first game for them, making just 6 as Punjab were bowled out for 112 against the Pune Warriors India. But he was promoted to open the innings in the next game against the defending champions, the Chennai Super Kings.
Valthaty's first involvement in the game saw him take a catch off Praveen Kumar's bowling to dismiss Suresh Raina, and leave the Super Kings reeling at 0-2 in the first over. However, Chennai recovered to post a competitive 188/4, riding on half centuries from Murali Vijay (74 off 43) and Subramaniam Badrinath (66* off 56), as well as a late blitzkrieg from MS Dhoni (43 off 20).
Chasing 189 was never going to be easy, especially against the IPL's best team, but, just over a year on from Jayawardene's heroics, Valthaty made it look ridiculously simple, caressing the ball through covers and smashing it over square leg with equal ease, and hitting 19 boundaries and 2 sixes on his way to an unbeaten 120 off 63 balls, getting his side over the line with 5 balls to spare.
Valthaty then followed up this innings with half centuries against the Delhi Daredevils and the Deccan Chargers, even picking up 4 wickets against the latter with his gentle medium pacers. However, even Valthaty's exceptional form could not help Punjab qualify for the playoffs, as they eventually finished fifth in the table.
#3: Ben Stokes (103*, 7x4, 6x6)
For: Rising Pune Supergiant
Against: Gujarat Lions
Date: 1st May 2017
Ben Stokes arrived in the IPL with a fearsome reputation. Known as a big-hitter, and a dangerous, wicket-taking bowler, there was no doubting his all-round ability, when he signed for the Rising Pune Supergiants in 2016. However, it didn't quite work out for him in his first IPL season, but he managed to pull it together in 2017, showcasing his abilities in destructive fashion.
In this battle of the two new franchises, against the Gujarat Lions at the MCA stadium in Pune, RPS captain MS Dhoni won the toss and elected to insert the opposition. Although Gujarat openers Ishan Kishan and Brendon McCullum got off to a good start, putting on 55 for the first wicket, a middle-overs fightback from RPS, led by South African leg-spinner Imran Tahir, saw them slip to 135/6 in 15 overs, and eventually finished on a below-par 161 all out.
With 162 to chase, it seemed as though RPS would win this one comfortably, but things did not pan out as expected. With left-arm pacer Pradeep Sangwan sending both openers, Ajinkya Rahane and Steve Smith, back to the hut in the first over, and Basil Thampi trapping Manoj Tiwary in front of his stumps for a duck in the second over, Stokes was required to go in with just 9 balls of the innings bowled. Normally a finisher, Stokes was required to temper his game so as to take it deep and give his team a chance of winning. He, however, didn't help his cause by running out Rahul Tripathi to leave his side reeling at 42/4 in 5.3 overs, and 120 runs still required.
Joined by MS Dhoni, who played an unusually sedate innings (26 off 33), Stokes constructed his innings to perfection, picking and choosing which bowlers to target, and slowly accelerating before cutting loose in the final overs, to take his side to victory off the penultimate ball, in the company of Ozzie Dan Christian.
Stokes' performances would be vital in taking RPS to the final that year, which they narrowly lost to the Mumbai Indians.
#2: Shane Watson (117*, 11x4, 8x6)
For: Chennai Super Kings
Against: Sunrisers Hyderabad
Date: 27th May 2018
The 2018 IPL was special for one reason and one reason alone: the return of the Chennai Super Kings and the Rajasthan Royals after their two-year bans due to spot-fixing allegations. During the auction, CSK were ridiculed by many for buying players who appeared to be past their best-indeed, 9 of the starting XI were above the age of 30.
The strategy in the auction, however, paid off, as the experience in the side carried them through the group stage, with Andhra batsman Ambati Rayudu leading the run-scoring charts for a significant period of time. Opening for the first time in the IPL, he formed a devastating partnership with Australian Shane Watson, who saved his best for the big occasion.
After Faf du Plessis single-handedly took CSK over the line in the first Qualifier against the Sunrisers, the men in yellow met the same opponent in the final. Led by their captain, Kane Williamson, far and away the best batsman in last year's tournament, who made 47 off 36 balls, and supported by Yusuf Pathan (45* off 25), the Hyderabad outfit posted a competitive 178/6 from their 20 overs.
The CSK innings was off to an inauspicious start, as Watson played out a maiden off the first over, bowled by Bhuvneshwar Kumar, before Faf du Plessis fell to Sandeep Sharma in the fourth over, with the score only 16. Watson was then joined by Suresh Raina, who played the perfect supporting knock with 32 runs off 24 balls, allowing Watson to occupy the crease more, and hammer the ball with devastating effect.
In an exceptional display of power hitting, Watson seemed invincible, muscling his way to an unbeaten 117 off just 57 balls. He was particularly severe on the young Indian pacers, Sandeep Sharma and Siddarth Kaul, who conceded a total of 95 runs in their 7 overs combined. By the time Raina departed in the 14th over, winning the game-and the title-was a mere formality. It seemed only fitting that Watson finished the rest of the game in the company of Rayudu, the man with whom he had built a lasting bond, and bring the title back to Chennai in their first year back.
#1: David Miller (101*, 8x4, 7x6)
For: Kings XI Punjab
Against: Royal Challengers Bangalore
Date: 6th May 2013
Kings XI Punjab seem to be making a habit of having these players, who can come good for them in a chase, and turn the game on its head, almost single-handedly. Following in the footsteps of Mahela Jayawardene in 2010, and Paul Valthaty in 2011, David Miller produced arguably the greatest ever second innings IPL performance against the Royal Challengers Bangalore in 2013.
Punjab captain David Hussey won the toss and elected to field first, a decision he may have regretted whilst he was out there. Bangalore openers Cheteshwar Pujara and Chris Gayle put on 102 in 11.2 overs for the first wicket, when Gayle departed for 61, scored off just 33 balls. Pujara was next to depart, his 51 runs coming off 48 deliveries. Some late power hitting from AB de Villiers and Moises Henriques (38* off 19 and 16* off 7 respectively) saw the Challengers eventually finish on 190/3.
The Punjab innings started slowly, and the batsmen never really got going due to the loss of wickets at regular intervals. Miller entered the fray in the eighth over with the loss of Gurkeerat Singh, and 3 wickets down for 51. Just 2 overs later, Miller lost the support of his captain, David Hussey, caught by Henriques off Murali Kartik. The score: 64/4, with 127 runs still required off 61 balls, and Miller as the last recognized batsman. Punjab had to win this game to keep any hopes of a playoff spot alive.
Even after 13 overs, with the score at 95/4, and a further 96 runs still to get, it seemed that this game was going to be RCB's all the way. What followed, however, was something that the crowd in Mohali would never be able to forget. Miller launched a devastating counter-attack on the RCB bowling line-up, in an exhibition of power hitting rarely seen thus far in the IPL. He plundered 26 runs off the 15th over, bowled by RP Singh to take the equation down to 53 required off 5 overs. By the time the 100 of the partnership was up, his partner, Rajagopal Sathish had contributed just 11 to that.
When the dust had finally settled, Punjab needed just 19 runs off the last 3 overs. The 18th, bowled by Chris Gayle, saw some big hitting form Sathish, before he turned it over to Miller, who hit the last ball of the over for six, his seventh of the innings to complete his hundred (off just 38 balls), and a remarkable comeback for the IPL's northernmost franchise, as they completed the run chase with 2 overs to spare.