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The best of IPL 2016: Mature David Warner, Andre Russell on all fours, Virat Kohli playing through pain

The ninth season of the Indian Premier League has come to an end; over the last seven weeks, six familiar franchises and two new ones who replaced beloved staple teams Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals, battled with their fans in tow for the ultimate prize. With Chennai out of the fray, fans and pundits had predicted this would be the most open IPL ever, and in ways it was.

Where one of the two debutants, Suresh Raina's Gujarat Lions, impressed and made it to the play-offs, the other, MS Dhoni's Rising Pune Supergiants, did not live up to their billing and finished just above bottom-placed Kings XI Punjab. The season also saw a rejuvenated Delhi Daredevils, led by veteran Zaheer Khan and mentored by Rahul Dravid. In the end, however, it was the Sunrisers Hyderabad who were crowned first-time champions. They beat Royal Challengers Bangalore, a team that had the batting firepower of Chris Gayle, Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers.

From thrilling catches to appalling drops, the season provided many breathtaking moments, some of heightened drama and some of sheer simplicity. Here are some of the best moments from IPL 9.

'Fizz', boom, crash

T20 cricket is a batsmen's game, no doubts about that. A standard IPL game's highlights package usually includes a dozen sixes, all sky high, towering above the little guy of the format, the bowler. The rules and conditions don't help either: Big bats, small grounds, flat pitches and fielding restrictions all aid the man who wields the willow. But what of those who wield the leather?

Cricket is unfair to the bowlers, so it's a sight to behold when one of them rattles the batsman at the crease. And it was indeed a sight to behold when Mustafizur Rehman's yorker shattered Andre Russell's stumps and brought him down on all fours. The ball was so devastating, so brutal, so beautiful that the batsman couldn't even stand in the face of it. It was not just a dismissal, it was harassment. KKR went on to win the game, and maybe Russell will forget the win, but he'll never forget the ball that brought him down. The delivery will remain a standout moment, of not just IPL 9, but one that would easily make the highlights reel of all IPLs combined.

Mr Fantastic's stretch at slips

Suresh Raina is an IPL veteran. He has enjoyed tremendous success with the Chennai Super Kings and was the highest run-getter in the IPL until Virat Kohli went berserk this season. Raina has had some big moments in his IPL career, but his superhuman catch to dismiss KKR's Suryakumar Yadav belongs right up there with all of them.

Yadav tried a cheeky upper cut off a Dwayne Smith short ball, which drifted in close to the body. It was difficult for Yadav to guide it wide off short third man. He managed to get it over slip, and the ball should have comfortably raced away for four, but for Raina. The Lions' skipper displayed immense agility to jump high, as if propelled by a spring in his shoes, stretched his arms out beyond normal human capacity, much like Mr Fantastic from the Fantastic Four, and plucked the ball out of thin air. He tumbled to the ground, with the ball stuck to his hand and a smile on his face. What a catch!

Two-man show

Another catch, this one a relay effort. It came early on in the tournament when nothing much of note had yet caught people's eye. But this relay catch from RCB's Shane Watson and David Wiese to dismiss DD's Shreyas Iyer was marvelous work.

Iyer, eager to impress in the IPL after a stunning Ranji season, tried to whack Sreenath Aravind straight down the ground. Watson chased the skied shot to the ropes, stretched his hand out and took the catch, but Australian all-rounder knew his momentum would carry him over the rope, and just as he was about to he threw the ball back up. Wiese, running in from long-off, dived and held on to the ball inches away from the rope. Watson then asks him, 'You got it?' Weise nods and thus one of the finest two-man catches in IPL history is completed.

Stitched-up century

RCB captain Virat Kohli celebrates his century by pointing to his injured hand with stitches. BCCI

RCB captain Virat Kohli celebrates his century by pointing to his injured hand with stitches. BCCI

Virat Kohli's form is probably the most talked about thing in the country these days. The Indian Test captain has scored close to a 1,ooo runs in IPL 9, taken on all bowling attacks with a combination of grace and ferocity, and played proper cricketing shots on the way to four centuries and seven half-centuries. His 38 sixes in the tournament were all proper hits, not a single one was slogged. He was majestic as a lion.

But it is said that wounded lions are more dangerous. And in a must-win game against Kings XI Punjab, Kohli proved that. The RCB captain had split his webbing and had to take 10 stitches to continue playing. In a curtailed 15-over affair, the injured Kohli slammed a 50-ball 113, his fourth ton of the season, and arguably his finest.

As he raised his bat to the crowd, Kohli made a gesture in which he pointed to his injury repeatedly, as if to say see what I can do with an injured hand. The moment perfectly captured Kohli's drive throughout the IPL, a perfect example of how hungry he is for runs.

Still the best finisher

Rising Pune Supergiants captain MS Dhoni and Ravichandran Ashwin celebrate their last ball win over Kings XI Punjab. BCCI

Rising Pune Supergiants captain MS Dhoni and Ravichandran Ashwin celebrate their last ball win over Kings XI Punjab. BCCI

MS Dhoni and his new team Rising Pune Supergiants struggled in the IPL this year. Suffering a spate of injuries to key players, Pune failed to make a mark in its maiden campaign, and so did skipper Dhoni. Regarded as the finest finisher in limited overs cricket, Dhoni was ineffective and often drew criticism for his batting. His failure to fire underlined Pune's miseries.

It was in Pune's last game of the season against KXIP that Dhoni's bat finally answered back. Pune needed 23 in the final over and it was Axar Patel with the ball in his hand. The first ball was a dot. The second one a wide. The second "legal" ball was deposited over mid-wicket for six by Dhoni. Third was another dot ball, courtesy brilliant fielding from Hashim Amla. Sixteen needed of three balls. The fourth ball was a much-needed four, and Pune now needed 12 off the last two balls. There was just one way to do it. Dhoni hit another six on the fifth ball, and with another maximum required off the last ball, Dhoni hit a helicopter smash to send the ball over midwicket for six more and seal the game and the seventh spot for Pune.

It was a reminder of Dhoni in his heyday, who used to regularly finish games with helicopter sixes. There wasn't much on the line in this match against KXIP, but Dhoni ended Pune's campaign on a high and with a flourish. Not doing so would have meant finishing last.

Warner, the bigger man

David Warner's incredible IPL, which ended in him leading SRH beyond the finishing line, was marked by his 848 runs and nine half-centuries. But his transformation as an individual was even more remarkable. The Australian opener matured into an aggressive yet calm captain, who was ready to give it all for the team. It felt as if the entire SRH team fed off his energy throughout the tournament. His attitude in the IPL can be best described as focused ferocity. He never loses sight of the target, and never refuses to get drawn into distractions.

Warner's transformation was evident when in the second qualifier against Gujarat Lions, Praveen Kumar, angry after being smacked for a six by Bipul Sharma earlier in the 17th over, decided to take on Warner verbally. It's unclear if Warner said something, or if PK was just trying to get under his skin. But the Indian pacer collected the ball and after faking a throw, eyed Warner and suddenly started marching towards him. Kumar kept repeating 'what' as he came up close to Warner, only to be stopped by wicket-keeper Dinesh Karthik. Warner, however, was calm in the face of aggression. The SRH skipper just stood there and smiled, avoiding to be drawn into a verbal battle.

The old, hyper-aggressive, sledge-all David Warner would've taken on PK and would have marched ahead and gone face-to-face. The new-age Warner chose to smile and go about his job. At the end of game, he had scored an unbeaten 93 off 58 balls to steer SRH into the final. Job done, with a smile on the face.

Canine love

Chris Morris' IPL will be remembered for his devastating all-round performance against Gujarat Lions, a game in which the South African first took two wickets and then in a late cameo hammered 82 runs off 32 balls to almost take DD home. In the end, Delhi lost by a solitary run.

But Morris will be remembered more fondly for his canine love. In a game against Pune, a dog invaded the ground and just refused to leave. He was having fun, soaking in the stardom and the atmosphere as stewards tried to chase it out of the field. Rishabh Pant also tried, but failed. Morris then attracted the dog's attention by playfully calling it out and then ran backwards as the dog chased him.

It was an adorable moment amid the T20 frenzy, and dog became an overnight superstar. The dog had his day, and Morris got himself a new best friend.

Updated Date: May 31, 2016 12:32 PM

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