Chennai Super Kings (CSK) beat Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) by 27 runs in the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2021 final on Friday to win their fourth title. Their win brought down the curtains on the 14th edition of the premier T20 league.
After one season in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the IPL returned to India for the 2021 edition. However, the COVID-19 pandemic got worse in India and it led to the suspension of the league in May and it returned to the UAE for the second half in September.
The pitches in the UAE proved to be slower than last year and definitely slower than the ones in the first half of IPL 2021, making it difficult for batters to truly get into the flow.
Pitches stayed low and slow, aiding spinners and pacers who made smart use of their slower deliveries.
However, some players shone through and showed their class even in difficult conditions to play match-winning knocks.
Ruturaj Gaikwad, Faf du Plessis and KL Rahul were the three top run-scorers, with the CSK openers separated by just two runs. It was the young Gaikwad who won the Orange Cap, with 653 runs.
Here are the 5 best batting performances in the 2nd half of IPL 2021:
#5 Glenn Maxwell 57(33) vs PBKS
On a Sharjah pitch that proved to be a minefield for most batters, Glenn Maxwell was once again at his best as he smashed 57 off 33 to help Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) beat Punjab Kings (PBKS) by six runs to seal their spot in the playoffs.
It wasn't the biggest of scores, but Maxwell looked like he was playing on a different pitch from everyone else, as he scored his runs at 172.73 on a sluggish wicket. The next best strike rate for any player in the match to have played more than 10 deliveries was Shahrukh Khan's 145.45 and he just scored 16 off 11, with one of his sixes coming after the win was already out of PBKS' reach.
Maxwell had a brilliant season with the bat, and his ability to score quickly through the middle overs on tricky surfaces was one of the biggest reasons for RCB making the playoffs. His knock against PBKS was emblematic of that.
#4 Ishan Kishan 84(32) vs SRH
Brought back into the Mumbai Indians (MI) playing XI as an opener after being dropped earlier in the season, Ishan Kishan finished off his IPL 2021 with a bang, hitting back-to-back half-centuries. In MI's penultimate match, Kishan hit a 25-ball 50 as they chased down a low total against Rajasthan Royals (RR) in quick time and boosted their Net Run Rate (NRR).
By the time their final league match came around against SunRisers Hyderabad (SRH), they needed to win by a margin of over 200 runs to make it to the playoffs.
The Rohit Sharma-led team did their best to try and make something happen and Kishan was at the front of it all, as he blitzed 84 off 32 deliveries. He reached his half-century in just 16 balls -- the fastest fifty by an MI player ever.
Kishan hit 11 boundaries and four sixes as he took the SRH bowlers to the cleaners in what was one of the most destructive knocks in the second half of IPL 2021.
#3 Yashaswi Jaiswal 50(21) vs CSK
Set 190 to win by Chennai Super Kings, Yashaswi Jaiswal gave the Rajasthan Royals (RR) the perfect start that laid down the platform for what turned out to be a comfortable win over the eventual champions.
Jaiswal took on the CSK attack from the get-go, bringing up his maiden IPL half-century in just 20 deliveries before eventually being dismissed while trying to go for another big shot.
RR chased down the target with more than two overs left and a lot of it was down to the start given by Jaiswal and Evin Lewis.
Jaiswal hit six boundaries and three sixes in what was his best performance in the IPL.
#2 Ruturaj Gaikwad 101*(60) vs RR
Ruturaj Gaikwad was in stunning form in the second half of the IPL and it reflected in him winning the Orange Cap. Against RR, Gaikwad hit a fine unbeaten century before Yashaswi Jaiswal and co. helped the Royals chase down the 190-run target.
Gaikwad's class was on full display as he took on pacers and spinners alike as CSK posted the then-highest total in the second half of the IPL.
Gaikwad hit nine boundaries and five maximums as he scored his maiden IPL century.
#1 KL Rahul 98*(42) vs CSK
Topping our list is KL Rahul's incredible assault on the CSK bowling lineup in PBKS' final league game. PBKS had to chase 135, but had to do it quickly to retain any hopes of making the playoffs.
This allowed Rahul to free himself from his shackles and play a free-flowing knock that showcased his aggression to the fullest. Rahul hit seven boundaries and cleared the ropes eight times as PBKS completed the chase in 13 overs.
That it came on a pitch where CSK only managed to score 134, that too only because of a gritty knock of 76 by Faf du Plessis, made the knock even more special.