James Franklin struck a blistering 23-ball unbeaten 45 to help Mumbai Indians pull off a sensational five-wicket win over Kolkata Knight Riders in the final round-robin league match of the Indian Premier League, in Kolkata, on Sunday.
Pacer Laxmipathy Balaji turned villain for Knight Riders. With Mumbai needing 21 off the last over, he went for four boundaries and a six, and conceded 23 runs, to hand Mumbai Indians a last-ball win at the packed Eden Gardens.
It was Franklin who started the onslaught in the last over, spanking Balaji for four consecutive boundaries, to reduce the equation to four off the last delivery.
Young Ambati Rayudu (17 not out off 6 balls) then drew curtains on the match in style, clobbering Balaji over the square-leg fence to silence the sell-out Eden crowd and bring Mumbai back on the winning track after three consecutive defeats.
The win meant Mumbai finished the round-robin league in third position, with 18 points from 14 matches, ahead of Kolkata Knight Riders, who have 16 points from as many games.
By virtue of their win over Chennai Super Kings earlier in the day, Royal Challengers Bangalore topped the standings with 19 points from 14 matches.
Even though both Chennai Super Kings and Mumbai Indians have similar points, the former remain in second spot because of a better net run-rate.
Royal Challengers will now take on Chennai Super Kings in the first qualifier on Tuesday at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai, while the Knight Riders are up against Mumbai Indians in the eliminator on Wednesday at the same venue.
Put in to bat, the Knight Riders had an eerie start, losing two quick wickets -- the scoreboard reading 22. But Jacques Kallis displayed a cool head and guided the home team innings with a 42-ball 59.
Together with Manoj Tiwary (35) and Yusuf Pathan (36), Kallis shared 47 and 57 runs for the third and fourth wickets respectively to set the platform for Knight Riders' challenging score of 175 for seven.
The burly South African entertained a sell-out Eden crowd with four boundaries and three sixes.
Towards the end, Ryan ten Doeschate (18) and Rajat Bhatia (11 not out off 6) played good hands to take Knight Riders past the 170-run mark.
For Mumbai Indians, young right-arm pacer Abu Nechim Ahmed and Franklin took two wickets each, giving away 32 and 35 runs respectively.
Defending the total, Rajat Bhatia returned with fine figures of three wickets for 22 runs to help Knight Riders pull back after Sachin Tendulkar (38) and Harbhajan Singh (30) looked dangerous in a 57-run second wicket stand that came off just 42 balls.
Bhatia first dismissed Harbhajan in the ninth over to end the dangerous-looking second-wicket partnership and then got the vital wickets of Rohit Sharma and Tendulkar to turn the game in Knight Riders' favour.
Promoted to the number three position after the dismissal of Tirimalasetti Suman (4), Harbhajan did his job of pinch-hitting to perfection.
He played a fearless innings as he took on the Knight Riders bowlers, dispatching them to all parts of the ground.
Tendulkar, on the other hand, went about his business in a quiet manner, getting the odd boundaries with his silken touch and rotating the strike with ones and twos.
Harbhajan was particularly ruthless on Balaji, who conceded 18 runs in his first over, even as the star off-spinner survived a dropped chance by Bhatia.
Looking strong at 70 for 1 after eight overs, Bhatia scalped the dangerous-looking Harbhajan with the first ball of his first over when the off-spinner gave a catch to Tiwary.
Bhatia then dismissed Rohit (10) in his second over, the Mumbai Indians batsman edging one to Shreevats Goswami behind the stumps.
Bhatia's next scalp was the prized one of Tendulkar, who gave a simple catch to his counterpart, Gautam Gambhir, at point.
Just when it looked Mumbai were slowly going out of the contest, came in Franklin, who, in Rayudu's company, added unbeaten 41 runs for the sixth wicket, and turned the match for the visitors.
Earlier, facing Lasith Malinga for the first time ever, Goswami had some anxious moments as the Knight Riders made a cautious approach to their innings.
After surviving a couple of fiery deliveries from Malinga, Goswami (1) ran himself out following a mix-up with Kallis.
At the other end, Kallis looked unruffled as he attacked Malinga in the same over, picking the ball over extra cover for a boundary off the last ball.
Knight Riders skipper Gambhir quickly settled down with a six of Abu Nechim.
But Gambhir (8) perished to the very next ball, when he missed Abu Nechim's line completely and saw his off-stump shattered. The Knight Riders looked in some trouble, losing two wickets inside the first four overs.
They, however, maintained a healthy run-rate and Kallis stood tall to take their cause forward as they scored 46 runs for the loss of two wickets at the end of the powerplay.
In-form Tiwary played another fluent innings; the stylish Bengal skipper stitched a crucial third-wicket partnership with the experienced South African.
The duo added 45 runs from 33 balls before Tiwary got himself out with another suicidial run-out. He hit five boundaries and one six during his stay.
After the fall of Tiwary, Kallis got fine support from big-hitting Pathan, who looked at his belligerent best, taking the attack to the Mumbai Indians' camp.
Off the very third ball he faced, Pathan smote left-arm spinner Price for a six over square leg and Kallis followed with a boundary as the veteran Zimbabwean conceded 13 runs of his first over.
Continuing his blitzkrieg, Pathan dispatched Pollard for two back-to-back boundaries, while Kallis added another as the West Indian conceded 15 runs to put the Knight Riders on course for a challenging total.
Pathan and Kallis took the Knight Riders to 124 in the 16th over before the former got out after a quickfire innings.
Kallis soon exploded with three sixes, two of them in succession, as he completed his half-century in style.