Who would have given the hosts a chance Not the players themselves perhaps. Not one out of the 22 players present at the Wankhede Stadium on Sunday night. Not after the asking rate was 13.1 runs an over right from the onset.
It was known well before the match started that they needed a big win to qualify for the play-offs on a better net run rate than their opponents, Rajasthan Royals. That outside chance seemed improbable, if not completely impossible, once the Rajasthan side posted 189 130 of those runs coming in the last 10 overs. Now, as the teams broke for the innings changeover, it dawned upon Mumbai that they needed 190 from 14.3 overs.
Somehow, incredibly, thanks to perhaps divine intervention and surely the divine hitting by Corey Anderson, it came down to the fourth ball of 15th over. And Anderson was not on strike. Fresh-from-the-dug-out-man Aditya Tare was.
When the 15th over of the chase began, one that would be bowled by James Faulkner, Mumbai needed 11 runs from three balls. At this point, on-strike Anderson was batting on a 43-ball 94 (nine fours, six big ones) and Ambati Rayudu on an eight-ball 23 (five fours). Anderson scored just a single off the first ball. No-one knew then that he wouldn't bat again, although over the remaining three balls everyone hoped like hell that he did.
With 10 to win off 2 and Rayudu on strike, Faulkner sprayed the ball full, wide and outside the batsman's legs. Rayudu didn't need a second invitation to dump the ball into the square-leg stands. Four runs were now needed off 1 ball. Faulkner bowled the ball short and wide of off-stump, which Rayudu cut straight to covers and took off on a suicidal run. Only, the throw missed the stumps and went for overthrows, which Rayudu tried to capitalise on and was run-out. Shane Watson and Rajasthan screamed, knowing fully well that they had made it to the playoffs. Or had they
Following what seemed like an eternal discussion between the Rajasthan players and the umpires, it was understood that a boundary off the next ball could still book Mumbai's ticket in the playoffs. Tare, having just walked in from the dugout a dejected man, received the good news from Mumbai's reserve player Apoorva Wankhede. Now, Rohit Sharma wore a smile on his face as Faulkner ran in to bowl his second all-important-and-deciding-ball in a row.
A wide at this point would have seen Rajasthan losing the match but qualifying as Mumbai would have reached their target and four runs wouldn't have been scored. Faulkner perhaps knew this and went wide for the fourth time this over. But for the second time in three balls, it was a full toss on the batsman's pads and Tare, just like Rayudu, didn't need a second look. A second after the ball was released, the ball was picked up by the fans in Wankhede.
Then, Tare tore off his shirt and ran like Cristiano Ronaldo did the previous night in Lisbon. And after him jogged mentors Tendulkar and Kumble. Mumbai were through, in the last ball of the last group game.