Steve Smith, before the start of this Rising Pune Supergiant vs Sunrisers Hyderabad IPL 2017 game, said class is permanent, while referring to the former captain MS Dhoni. And the great man showed why, by putting on a finishing masterclass against SRH to lead RPS to a stunning victory.
Put into bat at the MCA Stadium on what is a chasing ground, the Sunrisers Hyderabad, looking for their first away win in IPL 2017, did well to get to 176 for three, with Moises Henriques blitzing the RPS bowlers towards the end.
Rahul Tripathi set the chase up for the finishers Dhoni and Ben Stokes by striking a quickfire half-century, and while Stokes fell without doing any damage, Dhoni (61 n.o., 34b, 5x4, 3x6) took over, like only he can, in sublime fashion, to guide RPS to victory off the last ball of the match.
The RPS chase did not begin too well, as Ajinkya Rahane (2, 7b) holed out in the first ball of the fourth over to Bipul Sharma.
However, the Powerplay overs ended up working really well for RPS, thanks to Tripathi, who took on the SRH bowlers to great effect. Tripathi was also helped out by Bipul, who dropped the RPS opener when he was on just 17, with SRH made to pay dearly for that miss.
Tripathi turned it on in the next couple of overs, hitting Mohammed Siraj, the unlucky bowler who lost a chance to pick up a wicket off his first ball, for a six and a four, before Siddarth Kaul was given the treatment, courtesy two maximums and a boundary.
Those two big overs meant RPS finished their Powerplay on 55/1, staying on course in the chase.
With a calm Steve Smith at the other end, RPS were well in control of the chase, and it seemed much more so when the skipper decided to go into six-town, by spanking Bipul for a couple of maximums to bring the equation, at the halfway stage of the chase, down to 94 from 60 balls.
Next over, though, RPS got a bit of a jolt in the chase, when Rashid Khan got the googly working for him again, as Smith (27, 21b, 1x4, 2x6) played one onto the stumps.
The stage was set perfectly for Dhoni, who has been, a little too harshly, criticised for his struggles with the bat in IPL 2017.
It did get a little bit more difficult for the big man when Tripathi (59, 41b, 6x4, 3x6) had to trudge back after Rashid inflicted a brilliant run out with a direct hit.
With Dhoni and Ben Stokes in the middle, however, this game was still RPS', if they got one big over in, with the equation reading 79 from 41 balls.
However, Rashid bowled a tremendous over, conceding just three runs, which pushed the required run rate to over 12-and-a-half.
Two overs later, and Bhuvneshwar Kumar dismissed the dangerous Stokes (10, 9b, 1x4), who holed out at deep midwicket, leaving the finishing down to Dhoni and Manoj Tiwary.
Tiwary (17 n.o., 8b, 3x4) did his bit when needed, but this was Dhoni's time to make a statement, and what a statement he made, even smashing the unhittable Bhuvneshwar to take RPS to an impressive victory, by spanking a four off the last ball of the match.
The Sunrisers Hyderabad innings would have gone nowhere, if not for some Henriques (55 n.o., 28b, 6x4, 2x6) touch play and hitting.
After David Warner and Shikhar Dhawan (30, 29b, 5x4) struggled out there in the middle in the opening six overs, unable to really find the boundaries, singles and twos with great consistency, Kane Williamson came in at No.3 to give SRH a bit more impetus.
While Warner continued to scratch around – this is the second time in three innings that he has found it difficult to score freely – Williamson did hit a couple of boundaries and sixes, which gave the innings just that bit of momentum.
It was still far from what was needed, though, because when Williamson (21, 14b, 1x4, 1x6) got out, lbw to Dan Christian, SRH were on 84/2 in 12.3 overs. A score of 160 looked unlikely.
But Henriques came in, started picking up the boundaries by playing smartly and hitting the gaps, and with Warner just about staying there, the two Australians put on a vital 45-run partnership in four overs for the Sunrisers Hyderabad.
Even after Warner (43, 40b, 3x4, 1x6) got out, after missing a switch hit shot, Henriques and Deepak Hooda (19 n.o., 10b, 2x4, 1x6) added another 43 runs in just under four overs to take the score near 180.
All that was before Dhoni turned it on at the finish.
SRH: 176/3 in 20 overs.
RPS: 179/4 in 20 overs.
Result: RPS won by six wickets off the last ball.
Bowling: RPS: Jaydev Unadkat 4-0-41-1; Washington Sundar 3-0-19-0; Ben Stokes 2-0-19-0; Shardul Thakur 4-0-50-0; Dan Christian 4-0-20-1; Imran Tahir 3-0-23-1.
SRH: Bhuvneshwar Kumar 4-0-39-1; Bipul Sharma 4-0-30-1; Mohammed Siraj 4-0-42-0; Siddarth Kaul 3-0-45-0; Rashid Khan 4-0-17-1; Moises Henriques 1-0-4-0.
Fall of wickets: SRH: 55/1, Shikhar Dhawan (8.1 overs); 84/2, Kane Williamson (12.3 overs); 129/3, David Warner (16.3 overs).
RPS: 15/1, Ajinkya Rahane (3.1 overs); 87/2, Steve Smith (10.5 overs); 98/3, Rahul Tripathi (13.1 overs); 121/4, Ben Stokes (16.1 overs).