When Fizz floored Russell
Sunrisers Hyderabad's moment of crowning glory at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium brought down the curtains on another season of the Indian Premier League.
The ninth edition of the tournament started amidst grumblings of Twenty20 overdose and spectator burnout.
Severe drought concerns in Maharashtra forced the organisers to tinker with the itinerary. And amidst genuine fears of the season not living up to its billing in the wake of the ICC World Twenty20, it fought back, leaving behind many lingering moments - from incredible to unpredictable, from the seemingly impossible to the bizarre. Here's a collection of the best from IPL 2016.
1. Mustafizur floors Andre Russell
Andre Russell, a power-packed performer and one of the most sought-after T20 cricketers in the world, enjoyed another fine all-round season of IPL. However, in an early season encounter against Sunrisers Hyderabad, the usually unflappable Jamaican met his match in the gangly form of Mustafizur Rahman.
Fizz, true to his burgeoning reputation of being one of the finest modern white-ball bowlers, delivered an inch-perfect dipping yorker, flattening the middle stump while leaving the batsman sprawled on the floor.
Truly one of the enduring images of the tournament!
2. Dhoni finishes off in style - yet again
For a man accustomed to qualifying out of every IPL league stage, the 2016 season presented itself as a statistical oddity. MS Dhoni's Rising Pune Supergiants had long been ruled out of contention for a playoffs spot.
When they squared off against Kings XI Punjab in their final game of the season, they were playing to avoid the ignonimity of finishing last. For large parts of Kings XI's defense of 172, it looked like Punjab would finish above their fellow bottom-of-the-table strugglers. Dhoni, in true Dhoni style, set out to take the match as deep as possible. In this quest, he'd left himself having to score 23 off the final over bowled by left-arm spinner Axar Patel.
A dot, a wide, a six and another dot ball later, the equation read 16 to get off final three. Dhoni had decided to farm the strike, so much so that he'd even let go off an opportunity of a double when Hashim Amla made a diving stop in the fence.
He clubbed the next ball over extra cover for four and moved back in his crease to swing one over mid-wicket to reduce the equation to 6 off the final one. A dog entered the field at this moment, adding to the drama while delaying proceedings. By the time it found a safer recluse behind the boundary rope, Axar had had enough time to discuss his options with the captain.
He fired it into Dhoni's pads from over the wicket but the master finisher and the wrist of yore took over, dispatching the ball over mid-wicket to seal a memorable win.
3. An on-field spat with a twist
Harbhajan Singh is never shy of indulging in an on-field war of words. The Mumbai Indians' spinner wears his heart on his sleeves when he steps out to play and an emotional outburst is almost one nudge away.
In a crucial league encounter against Rising Pune Supergiants, the experienced off-spinner decided to let loose his tongue, only to get it back in installment. Weirdly enough, his verbal exchange was not with an opposition but a teammate, Ambati Rayudu. Rayudu, attempting to stop a boundary in the deep on the leg side by parrying the ball towards an onrushing fielder, inadvertently pushed the ball to the ropes.
Unimpressed by the effort, Harbhajan gesticulated towards his fielder, asking him to stay aware. Not one to take it without a rebuttal, Rayudu took offence and fired his own verbal salvo.
Rayudu's counter clearly surprised Harbhajan, who quickly slipped into conciliatory mode. But Rayudu, who was expecting an acknowledgment of his efforts, was clearly not impressed.
4. Gambhir's funky Test match field
Gautam Gambhir's aggressive captaincy has borne Kolkata Knight Riders two IPL titles and it is an aspect of his game that he wouldn't partake with easily.
The combative captain took this proactive approach a notch higher each time he came up against his Pune counterpart and former Indian teammate, MS Dhoni. Not wanting to allow Dhoni any easy opportunity to rotate strike on a turning Eden Gardens pitch, Gambhir welcomed Dhoni with two slips, a short leg and a silly point (where Gambhir stationed himself).
The setup sowed the seeds of doubt in Dhoni, who played an uncertain defensive shot to a Piyush Chawla googly and was only lucky to not have the ball roll back on to the stumps.
The constant pressure on Dhoni meant that the Pune skipper could only meander to an 18-ball 7, before an extended rain break ended the visitors' chances in the game.
5. Stitched-up Kohli carves open Kings XI Punjab
Virat Kohli entered IPL 2016 as the best T20 batsmen in the world but one who didn't have a single century in the format. He finished the tournament with four tons to his name and a scarcely believable aggregate of 973 runs from 16 matches.
The fourth of the centuries came in a rain-curtailed encounter at the Chinnaswamy Stadium. When the skies cleared and the umpires decided on a 15-overs-a-side match, Murali Vijay elected to field in the hope that Kohli would perhaps not have enough time to score another hundred.
But Kohli had been transcending the art of T20 batting throughout the tournament and proceeded to lay into the Kings XI bowlers enroute scoring a 47-ton ball. Upon reaching the milestone, he put up his left arm and repeatedly hit pointed at his webbing, where he'd received multiple stitches for an effort on the field. Such dedication.
6. The mother of all relay catches
Year on year, the IPL has pushed the boundaries of fielding standards. Teams reserve portions of their training session to perfect the fielding art.
The latest season was witness to several blinders but the one that took the cake came courtesy a combined effort between Royal Challengers' Shane Watson and David Wiese. Shreyas Iyer, itching to get off to a good start in a big chase, lofted a length delivery over mid-on.
As luck would have it, he didn't time the ball all that well giving the fielder a chance to run back and take the catch. Watson ran back from mid-on, keeping his eyes on the trajectory of the ball all the way, and completed a running catch a good 10 metres from the boundary line.
However, his momentum was carrying him over the ropes. Just before approaching the boundary cushions and with no alternative in sight he flicked the ball back into play where Wiese, who had joined Watson in the run from mid-off, held on to a diving catch, finishing inches away from the rope. Top draw!
7. Hardik's day of collisions
After a promising start to his international career, Hardik Pandya's stocks nosedived during the IPL following a string of poor performances in the early part of the tournament.
The game against Delhi Daredevils at the Feroz Shah Kotla, in particular, was one the young all-rounder would want to readily forget. Hardik came worse off in a collision in the deep when Jos Buttler's shoulder rammed into his face and had to be taken off the field for medical attention.
When another opportunity presented itself, during a tense chase, to atone for his gaffe, Hardik found himself in the way of his captain Rohit Sharma, who'd looked primed to pull off a final-over coup.
The two collided mid-pitch while attempting a second run and a winded Rohit collapsed onto the floor, allowing Chris Morris to relay a throw to the wicket-keeper's end and effect the run-out, thereby clinching the game for Delhi.