One year ago, Piyush Chawla hit a six in the last ball of the 18th over off Mitchell Johnson to deliver the Indian Preimier League trophy to the Kolkata Knight Riders. It was a well-struck six, short and deposited cleanly over deep backward square leg. If you check the commentary for that match, ESPNCricinfo describes in these terms: “He didn't seem to be in the best possible position to pull, but Chawla's got more than enough bat on it.”

Cruel irony. How tragic can this game be? Chawla swung, desperately, fiercely at six balls on Thursday. He could touch only thin air. Even one touch of the ball might have made Chawla the hero for Kolkata tonight. But it was not to be. Mumbai won a thriller, deservedly too, to stay alive. Kolkata, on the other hand, have only one more chance to make it count.

So painfully close

In another match report published a few weeks back, I mentioned how KKR fans had come to terms with Yusuf Pathan. As I had mentioned, “The general understanding has been that Pathan is in the team to play only that one big innings of note in the season.” As the KKR chase unfolded, I sat bolt upright in my chair, wondering whether this was going to be that special Yusuf innings of this year’s IPL.

In many ways it was. And for all my criticism, this was a different Yusuf Pathan at the crease, a Pathan who seemed to have taken a leaf out of the Dhoni school of finishing.

Coming in at the fall of the second wicket, Pathan shepherded the entire KKR chase and was painfully close to winning it for them. Gone were the instinctive big shots, so intrinsic to his batting. Pathan played the kind of innings any finisher would be proud of. Around him, he had wickets falling but he grimly held on, timing his big hits to perfection.

In the 17th over, Suryakumar Yadav fell, KKR’s last recognised proper batsman fell. Pathan responded with an intelligent upper-cut for four. He wasn’t going to let the pressure get to him. Next over Malinga. Twenty one off 12. Chawla played and missed one. The pressure immediately increased. Chawla played and missed, twice. The second time though, Pathan was quick to spot Parthiv Patel’s misfield and scampered through for a bye. Next ball, Boom. Malinga hit over deep midwicket for six.

Twelve from 6. Pollard to deliver the final over. Pathan on strike. “Yup”, I told myself. “Today is Pathan’s day to be the hero.”

I spoke too soon. Slow and short. Nine times out of ten, Pathan would have sent it into the Wankhede stands. Today, he was just a little too fast with his shot. The ball lobbed up. The catch was taken.

Game. Set. Match.

A horrendous last five oversy

Gautam Gambhir might feel livid at his batsmen, but he’d better hope his bowlers have some explanations ready for him: why were KKR chasing 171 in the first place, especially after they had Mumbai Indians reeling at 48/3 after seven overs?

Mumbai hadn’t even reached 100 in 15 overs. They were 99/4 after 15. The fact that KKR’s bowlers let them get more than 70-odd runs in the last five overs reflects extremely poorly on the defending champions.

The culprit-in-chief was Umesh Yadav. Given the responsibility to deliver the 17th over, Umesh Yadav gave a display of "how not to ball at the death" by dishing out slow, short length deliveries to Pandya and getting struck for four consecutive boundaries. Up in the commentary box, Sunil Gavaskar was livid. As he correctly pointed out, Umesh Yadav had the pace to actually generate bounce and trouble the batsman – hence, it was unfathomable why Yadav was persisting in delivering such a pathetic line.

In all the mayhem, KKR’s good work at the start was completely undone. This included a spectacular delivery from Narine to dismiss Mumbai captain Rohit Sharma, pitching on leg stump and spinning away to hit the top of off stump, completely bamboozling Rohit. Shakib, back in the KKR side, was also very tidy at the start.

For the defending champions, it’s do or death now. They had an opportunity to close this match out and proceed to the playoffs comfortably but blew it. Now, it’s up to them to put it over Rajasthan. But before that, Wasim Akram needs to have a long, hard conversation with his bowlers about their death bowling strategies.