Suresh Raina has been in imperious form of late and his explosive, unbeaten 109 shut out Kolkata Knight Riders and gave Chennai Super Kings their second Champions League T20 title.
The IPL champions, having had to come to terms with the absence of match-winning spinner Sunil Narine, still would have backed themselves after skipper Gautam Gambhir’s 80 lifted them to a challenging 180. But the success of CSK left-arm spinner Pawan Negi, who captured five for 22 to hold back KKR, would have left Gambhir and Co wishing they had Narine to provide a fitting answer.
But there was little that could have stopped Raina. He played an array of shots, with power and authority to make light of the target, in the end winning by eight wickets with nine balls to spare.
Suresh Raina plays a shot during the CLT20 final match against Kolkata Knight Riders at Chinnaswamy Satdium in Bengaluru. (PTI Photo)
Dwayne Smith fell early, to a brilliant slow yorker from Pat Cummins. Coming in at No 3, Raina drove through his pet widish long off area and pulled imperiously through mid-wicket. Kuldeep Yadav could hardly find anything to celebrate his India call up.
Raina’s fifty came off just 27 balls at the other end.
Picking singles and a series of doubles, Raina-McCullum pair notched up the 100 partnership in 66 balls. McCullum fell for 39, but skipper MS Dhoni in a surprise move promoted himself to No 4. Raina raced to his century in 59 balls. It was laced with six fours and seven sixes.
With the dew a concern, CSK asked KKR to bat first. KKR started with a huge handicap. Still, their huddle had one main focus: Let’s do it for Narine.
KKR bowler Pat Cummins being congratulated by team-mates after he dismissed Dwayne Smith. (Ajay Aggarwal/HT Photo)
Gambhir’s run of not finding gaps finally ended with a crunchy drive through mid-wicket and later a hook off Mohit Sharma. At the other end, Robin Uthappa, spurred by his home crowd, caressed one straight past Mohit Sharma. The opening pair raised 91 runs before Pawan Negi had Uthappa stumped. Jacques Kallis lasted just four balls as Negi had him caught at deep cover.
Gambhir, before being caught at long off, had inspired the team with a solid 80 off 52 balls, including seven fours and three sixes.
Manish Pandey and Yusuf Pathan promised a formidable total. Pandey was severe on Ashish Nehra, hitting two sixes and a four to collect 19 runs in the 18th over.
Negi, however, had him caught by McCullum.
But CSK were back in the game in the 19th over, Negi picking up three wickets for just 2 runs. Yusuf Pathan went after Nehra and 19 runs came from the last over. But the onset of dew, the absence of Narine and the batting might of Chennai made it an evening KKR would rather forget. The fifteenth win in a row was not to be.