Indian Premier League (IPL) is regarded as the toughest T20 league across the cricketing world. With some of the best players competing under the same roof, the league nurtures some of the finest talents to come to the fore. It takes immense skill and ability to handle consistent pressure for any player to attain success at the IPL level. Players who arrive at big occasions such as IPL knockouts, often leave a lasting imprint in the minds of the cricket audience.
Over the years, cricket fans have witnessed some of the finest IPL innings being played during the business end of an IPL season. Here's a look at the top five innings ever played in the IPL knockouts:
1) Virender Sehwag – 122 off 58 balls vs CSK, IPL 2014 Qualifier 2
Kings XI Punjab was up against the Chennai Super Kings in the Qualifier 2 of the 2014 IPL edition. CSK won the toss and MS Dhoni inserted KXIP on a batting paradise at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai. On a flat deck at Wankhede, the stage was set for Virender Sehwag and co. to put up a strong total on the board. Sehwag, who made a cautious start to his innings, was unstoppable after the first few overs.
He tore apart the CSK bowling line-up and made a blistering 122 off 58 balls. His innings was flooded with 12 fours and 8 sixes that immediately pushed CSK onto the backfoot. This helped KXIP to post a formidable total of 226 in their 20 overs. Sehwag's knock got appreciation from all quarters as the veteran opener did not have the best of starts in IPL 2014. However, his annihilating innings arrived at one of the most important IPL knockouts for KXIP.
2) Suresh Raina – 87 off 25 balls vs KXIP, IPL 2014 Qualifier 2
After Sehwag's heroics in the first innings, it was a daunting task for CSK to achieve 227 runs to book a place in the IPL 2014 Final. After losing Du Plessis early during the chase, the pressure mounted on CSK to keep up with the increasing run-rate. A lot rested upon Suresh Raina, who walked in at No.3, to keep his side in the contest. Raina, in his usual attacking approach, took the attack to the opposition bowlers and scored a brilliant 87 off just 25 balls. It was batsmanship of the highest level that included six sixes and 12 fours.
Raina's walloping innings helped CSK to cross the 100-run mark inside the powerplay overs. However, Raina's innings was cut short by a brilliant throw from George Bailey. CSK never recovered from this setback and ended up losing the match by 24 runs to be knocked out from IPL 2014.
3) Manish Pandey – 94 off 50 balls vs KXIP, IPL 2014 Final
KXIP were drawn up against Kolkata Knight Riders in 2014 IPL final which was played at the M.Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru. Batting first, KXIP posted a huge score of 199, courtesy of Wriddhiman Saha's 115 off 55 balls. As a result, the Gautam Gambhir-led KKR was left with a mountain to climb in the IPL final.
Manish Pandey, who came in to bat after the fall of the first wicket, produced one of the finest knock in the history of IPL knockouts to help KKR win its second IPL title in three years. Manish's knock included seven fours and six sixes as he along with Yusuf Pathan (36) scripted a memorable victory for KKR in the IPL final.
4) David Warner – 93 off 58 balls vs GL, IPL 2016 Qualifier 2
Gujarat Lions were up against Sunrisers Hyderabad in the 2016 IPL Qualifier 2 at the Feroze Shah Kotla ground in Delhi. With a spot in the final up for the grabs, Sunrisers Hyderabad had a task of 163 runs to chase on a really slow track in Delhi. It was a dreadful start for the Orange Army as they kept losing wickets in quick succession. However, skipper David Warner held one end to keep SRH's hopes alive in the contest.
At one point of time, SRH were reeling at 84-5 midway through the innings with Warner waging a lone battle. However, the SRH opener produced a brilliant effort aided by Bipul Sharma's cameo of 27, that SRH chased down the score with just two balls to spare. This Warner innings on a tough Delhi pitch will definitely go down as one of the best innings ever played in the IPL knockouts.
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5) Ben Cutting – 39 off 15 balls vs RCB, IPL 2016 Final
It was all set for a Southern Derby clash at the 2016 IPL final with SRH locking horns with RCB at the M.Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru. In the final, SRH elected to bat first and the opening duo of Dhawan-Warner gave them a rollicking start. However, given the RCB's batting line-up, it was necessary for SRH to score at least 20-30 runs as a cushion for their bowlers. With the game evenly poised after the first 15 overs, it was Ben Cutting whose innings proved to be the difference between the two teams.
The Australian all-rounder's 15-ball cameo included four sixes and three fours which shifted the entire momentum in SRH's favour. His crucial knock of 39 runs propelled the Orange Army to a total of 208 runs in their 20 overs. Despite a flourishing start from Chris Gayle and Virat Kohli, RCB could not chase down the target and ended up falling 8 runs short of the target.
For his match-defining efforts with the bat, and two wickets with the ball, Ben was awarded the Man of the Match in the 2016 IPL final.