Table-toppers Chennai Super Kings (CSK) assured themselves of a spot in the Indian Premier League Qualifier 1 as they registered an overwhelming seven-wicket victory over Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) in a league encounter at the Punjab Cricket Association (PCA) Stadium in Mohali on Saturday.
Two-time champions CSK finished their league campaign with 18 points, while all of the five higher placed teams have only a game left to play and they have 15 or 14 points.
During Saturday's afternoon game, CSK put up a strong bowling performance and restricted KXIP to 130/7 in 20 overs. During the chase, a 92-run stand between Faf du Plessis (55) and Suresh Raina (37 not out) got them to an easy victory, dumping last year's runners-up KXIP to the bottom with only six points from 14 matches.
Earlier, after skipper George Bailey won the toss and elected to bat, KXIP never got it going from the start and lost wickets regularly.
Young all-rounder Axar scored 32 in 28 balls and forged a 44-run stand for the seventh wicket with Rishi Dhawan (not out 25) to ensure that they cross the 100-run mark.
KXIP lost three wickets inside the first six Powerplay overs. Makeshift opener Wriddhiman Saha (16)was holed out at cover following a mis-hit off left-arm spinner Pawan Negi.
Later, Bailey (7) paid the price for touching an away moving Ashish Nehra delivery that landed in the hands of wicketkeeper Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
The other opening batsman Manan Vohra (4) sliced an Ishwar Pandey delivery to Nehra at third man to leave KXIP reeling at 35/3 in 5.1 overs.
CSK off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin had right-handed batsman Gurkeerat Singh Mann (15) stumped by Dhoni and Glenn Maxwell was clean bowled by left-arm tweaker Ravichandran Jadeja.
Following Maxwell's wicket, the hosts were in trouble at 55/5 in 10 overs and the script refused to change in the next 10 overs.
Negi returned to remove aggressive left-handed batsman David Miller (11) to shut the door on KXIP's chances of a comeback. Afterwards, Patel and Dhawan put up a useful 44-run partnership.
For the visitors, Negi was the most successful bowler, picking up two wickets for 25 runs in four overs. Nehra, Dwayne Bravo, Pandey, Ashwin, Jadeja took a wicket each to restrict KXIP to 130/7.
In reply to the small total, CSK gave their opponents a glimmer of hope at the beginning. Veteran left-hander Michael Hussey (1) and seasoned New Zealander Brendon McCullum (6) lost their wickets to leave CSK in a spot of bother at 10/2 in two overs.
However, Du Plessis and Raina brought CSK in a comfortable position with a handsome partnership that saw them playing some delightful strokes but at the same time they were very guarded.
Till medium pacer Dhawan broke the stand, CSK were just 28 runs short of the win. Du Plessis had his stumps rattled by Dhawan but the damage was already done by the South African, who hit five fours and a six during his 41-ball stay.
Raina remained not out during his 41-run knock in 31 balls and along with Dhoni (not out 25 in 16 balls), the Indian left-hander completed KXIP's misery.