We polled our staff for their picks of the top ten best batting, bowling and all-round performances in the IPL through its history. Here's No. 7
Virender Sehwag had just torn open a portal to Multan 2004, cracking a 58-ball 122 to carry the Kings XI Punjab to 226 for 6. Soon after, however, Raina fast-forwarded to the future of T20 cricket with a vicious assault of his own.
To put things in perspective: only seven of the 25 balls that Raina faced didn't find or clear the boundary at the Wankhede Stadium. By the end of the first six overs, he alone had 87 (off 25 balls) and CSK 100 for 2. So far, no other batsman has made as many runs in the powerplay in T20 cricket and only four teams have topped 100 in this phase.
Raina didn't face a single ball beyond the powerplay, having been caught short by a sharp direct hit from George Bailey. It was probably the only manner in which Raina could have been dismissed that day. CSK bungled the chase thereafter and went on to lose by 24 runs, despite MS Dhoni's customary last-ball six.
Nevertheless, Raina's innings was so otherworldly that it was the only contribution in a losing cause to make this list of the greatest IPL performances.
He came in to bat in the very first over of the chase, after Mitchell Johnson had bounced Faf du Plessis out for a duck. Johnson tried to soften Raina up with the short ball too - like he had done in the past - but this was Raina's day. He rode the bounce and glanced the first ball he faced for four. In Johnson's next over, Raina rocked back to within inches of his stumps and swatted him away for a six over mid-on. Both those deliveries were clocked at 150kph. Raina didn't care and aced the match-up.
Against the slower pace of Sandeep Sharma, Raina had time to slink around his crease and pump him for four boundaries in the arc between point and midwicket in the second over. He would bring up his 50 off a mere 16 balls with a signature inside-out six off Sharma in the fifth over.
Raina's evisceration of Parvinder Awana in the next over - 6, 6, 4, 4, 4 (nb), 4, 4 - was perhaps cricket's equivalent of the Hulk Smash. Arguably the pick of that sequence was a high-elbowed arrow-straight drive off a 140kph dart, although the four flicked between square leg and midwicket, after shuffling across off, was peachy too. In all, Raina was in control of 20 off the 25 balls he faced, scoring 81.
"I think when Viru [Sehwag] bhai was hitting a lot of sixes, I thought the wicket was very, very good. I thought we can chase 180-190, but they ended up scoring 230-something," Raina recalled, speaking to R Ashwin on Instagram Live in 2020.
"I was also fielding from mid-on and mid-off; every ball Viru bhai was playing so straight. So [in] that game, I learnt from the first innings that I had to [be] very, very particular about my bat flow, go through the checked drives, and especially take the balls to straight boundaries [rather than play cross-batted]. The calmness made me believe that I can do it. I felt so, so, so good when every ball was coming into my bat."
Just like that, a Sehwag special looked no longer special, but Raina's run-out meant the Kings XI still reached their first IPL final.