The Indian Premier League (IPL) Twenty20 cricket tournament favours batsmen — over 22,000 runs were scored in 76 matches in 2012 — so it's a challenge to pick the ten best individual batting performances from the litany of big scores in IPL's history to date.
This selection was reached after looking at several factors: the number of runs scored, the strike rate, the importance of the match, the quality of bowling, and the impact the innings had on the match. Another criterion was to try and pick several different types of innings, from elegant hundreds to dominant six-fests to cameos that turned a match around, in an effort to showcase the various batting styles on offer in IPL cricket. Finally, a limit of one innings per batsman was applied for the sake of variety, otherwise a certain Christopher Henry Gayle would have dominated the list.
Click on an item to see video highlights of that innings.
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175 not out off 66 balls, strike rate 265.15, 13 fours, 17 sixes
Records tumble off the bat of an all-time great power hitter
You could pick any of about six or seven Chris Gayle innings for this list — he's without doubt the most consistently brutal batsman the IPL has seen, particularly since joining Royal Challengers Bangalore in 2011. By far the most extraordinary, however, and among the contenders for most dominant innings in cricket history, was Gayle's 175 not out against Pune Warriors India in 2013. The sixes rained all over the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore — 17 in all — and he reached his hundred off just 30 balls, the fastest ever in a top-level cricket match. (Read about more unbeatable cricket records here.)
In fact, Gayle set or was part of a total of ten cricket records that day. It was an exhibition of genuinely breathtaking hitting that rendered the opposition more or less irrelevant. There may someday be another contender, but for now, there is no more fearsome sight on a cricket field than Gayle's swinging blade.
158 not out off 73 balls, strike rate 216.43, 10 fours, 13 sixes
First-ever IPL match, an innings that heralded the arrival of a new cricketing era
We didn't know it at the time, but New Zealander Brendon McCullum's effort in the first game of the inaugural Indian Premier League tournament changed cricket forever. Plenty of people around the world had doubts about the IPL format, seeing it more as a diamante cash-grab than a genuine cricket tournament, and the vultures were circling as McCullum walked out to open the innings for KKR. Twenty overs later, the cricketing world was won over (at least temporarily) by his staggering display of timing and power. He combined orthodox strokes with savage cross-bat hoicks on his way to 158 not out, which remained the highest individual score in Twenty20 cricket for five years.
McCullum's innings got the IPL off to a perfect start: he planted the flag for a new form of cricket, grabbing everyone's attention, and it continues to thrill years down the line.
95 off 52 balls, strike rate 182,69, 4 fours, 6 sixes
Set up a 200-plus total in an IPL final with a near-perfect combination of hard hitting, good running, and careful placement
For a player primarily known as a first-class and Test specialist, capable of digging in for a long innings, Murali Vijay has surprised many in setting the Indian Premier League alight with numerous exciting innings. The Chennai-born Vijay has scored two hundreds in the format so far but his best IPL innings came in the 2011 final, when he and fellow Chennai Super Kings opener Michael Hussey put on 159 runs for the first wicket at better than ten an over.
Vijay was the dominant partner and went on to make 95 of the most expertly crafted runs you will ever see. He smashed sixes, of course, as is customary in Twenty20 cricket, but he also guided the ball through narrow gaps in the field and ran hard between the wickets — such that he was almost out on his feet by the time he spooned a catch to cover. A masterclass under pressure, Vijay's knock batted Royal Challengers Bangalore out of the final.
85 off 35 balls, strike rate 242.85, 10 fours, 5 sixes
Scored 85 out of 102 runs the team accrued while he was at the crease, turning a potentially tricky semi-final chase a walkover
Adam Gilchrist is an all-time great, a key element of Australia's all-conquering team of the late 1990s and early 2000s, and he showed in 2009 that his influence would not wane after leaving Australian colours behind. Gilchrist dragged Deccan Chargers from bottom of the table in the inaugural IPL in 2008 to winning the tournament in 2009, a spectacular turnaround that relied as heavily on his leadership as his swashbuckling starts at the top of the order. In the semi-final against tournament favourites Delhi Daredevils, he smacked five fours from the first over to get a tricky chase under lights off to a perfect start. Then, he simply continued on in the same vein, thrashing the ball to all parts.
By the time he was out for 85 after ten overs, his teammates were able to knock around at a run a ball to round out a comfortable win. With their tails up, the Chargers went on to seal the title.
109 not out off 60 balls, strike rate 181.66, 12 fours, 5 sixes
A clean, classy, perfect Twenty20 hundred
Supporters of Rohit Sharma point to this innings as evidence of his gargantuan talent. Rohit so often flatters before deceiving, particularly during several lean runs at international level, but for Mumbai Indians against Kolkata Knight Riders he delivered on all of his abundant gifts: a superb eye, excellent balance and timing, awareness of the field, and power hitting ability. It also came against arguably the best bowling attack in IPL 2012, including the often unplayable Sunil Narine and the still-fierce Brett Lee. Whoever was bowling seemed to matter little to Rohit that day; he was 'in the zone', seeing each ball clearly and finding the gaps regularly, as well as finding the time and strength to clear the boundary five times.
116 not out off 54 balls, strike rate 214.81, 8 fours, 9 sixes
Not quite McCullum, but up there with the very best from an Australian master
One of the finest and most versatile cricketers of the modern age, Michael Hussey showed in the second-ever IPL match — it came the day after McCullum's record-breaker (number one above) — that his ability to accumulate runs carried over from Test and one day matches to the Twenty20 arena. Hussey, however, relied more here on hitting the ball over the rope than on his usual piercing drives along the ground, and he delivered a requisite spike in his scoring rate.
Hussey has gone on to be a vital player at the top of the order for Chennai Super Kings over the years, usually as the more sedate partner in a series of explosive stands with players like M Vijay, Suresh Raina, and MS Dhoni, but he began his IPL career as the devastating main act.
89 runs from 48 balls, strike rate 185.41, 8 fours, 5 sixes
An unheralded match-winner in a high-scoring final
When Brendon McCullum's name was missing from Kolkata Knight Riders' team list on the day of the 2012 IPL final, everyone wondered what KKR were thinking. It turned out to be a masterstroke as MS Bisla, who replaced the out-of-form McCullum both behind the stumps and as an opening batsman, launched an intimidating chase with a superb knock under intense pressure.
Chennai Super Kings were defending their title in front of a noisy home crowd and, like the previous year, had put a big score on the board. Bisla put KKR on the path to victory, brushing off the early loss of in-form captain Gautam Gambhir to crash four boundaries from the 4th over and continue his assault against the spinners with a flurry of sixes. After Bisla fell, his teammates stumbled a little but managed to bring the silverware home on the foundation set by their surprise hero.
51 not out off 20 balls, strike rate 255, 6 fours, 2 sixes
The quintessential game-changing Dhoni cameo
Every MS Dhoni signature stroke was contained within these 20 balls: the aerial cover drive, the bottom-handed pull, the jab through backward point, and — yes — the helicopter shot, so named for the way he whirls his bat around in a complete circle. His broader trademarks were evident, too: coming in with only a few overs left and a mediocre tally on the board, the captain of Chennai Super Kings and India almost single-handedly wrested control of the match away from the opposition, and he did it all without betraying a shred of emotion from his still, handsome face. Combine all this and it's easy to see why he's the most bankable star the cricket world has ever seen.
110 not out off 59 balls, strike rate 186.44, 14 fours, 3 sixes
Not all IPL innings are full of big hits...
Another prolific veteran with little left to prove in cricket, Sri Lankan legend Mahela Jayawardene chose this IPL match against Kolkata Knight Riders to demonstrate that his elegant style is as relevant to Twenty20 cricket as it is to Tests and one-dayers. 14 fours isn't the record for an individual IPL innings — that would be Kings XI Punjab teammate Paul Valthaty with 19 — but Jayawardene's silky-smooth 110 not out was almost completely composed of classy shots that went exactly where he wanted them to. There was a let-off when he was dropped on 51, but that blip was countered by repeated cuts along the ground to the backward point boundary and the odd lofted drive for six.
To do this in a big chase at Kolkata, with tens of thousands of fans against him, made Jayawardene's innings even more impressive.
100 runs off 37 balls, strike rate 270.27, 9 fours, 8 sixes
... but other times, IPL innings are almost exclusively made up of big hits
Rajasthan Royals lost on the day, falling an agonising five runs short while chasing Mumbai Indians' mammoth total of 212, but Yusuf Pathan literally did everything in his power to get RR as close as possible. With the required run rate passing 14 early in his innings, Yusuf knew there was only one path to possible victory: to, or preferably over, the boundary. What followed was a blitz of massive blows and delicate late cuts to bring up the fastest IPL century and the equal third-fastest in all Twenty20 cricket.
Then he was run out, and his teammates couldn't get over the line, but RR captain and Australian superstar Shane Warne described Yusuf's century as the best he had seen. Hyperbole in the heat of the moment, perhaps, but it was a remarkably brutal display.
This article was updated on 28 April 2013 to include Chris Gayle's record-breaking innings (number one). Gayle's previous entry in the list at number three, 128* against Delhi Daredevils on 17 May 2012, was removed.