Ruturaj Gaikwad sets it up, MS Dhoni finishes to put CSK into ninth IPL final

Delhi Capitals fail to defend 12 runs in the final over after Tom Curran handed the ball ahead of Kagiso Rabada in Qualifier 1 played in Dubai.
CSK defeat DC by 4 wickets(
CSK defeat DC by 4 wickets(
Updated on Oct 11, 2021 08:08 AM IST
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By, Kolkata

This IPL qualifier was all guts and glory, about a team almost defying logic to chase when one of the best finishers in the game hasn’t been himself of late. But class is permanent, they say. 13 from 5 balls? Bring on MS Dhoni. He still has it. The first boundary over extra cover had class written all over it and a lesson to Tom Curran that you can’t offer bounce to someone who likes to rock back. The inside edge past Rishabh Pant was just luck favouring the brave. But that crunch was vintage Dhoni for you, freeing up his arms to dissect the space through deep square-leg with everything he had. Dhoni is back. And so are Chennai Super Kings in another Indian Premier League final.

Delhi Capitals will just have to get on with it. On paper, they had the more balanced bowling attack on a pitch that had something for everyone. And by choosing to not break the winning combination, Chennai Super Kings also had to go in without Suresh Raina—scorer of the most runs (714), boundaries (51), sixes (40) and fifties (7) in IPL playoffs. The first ball from Anrich Nortje clocked 145 kph on the speed gun. Three balls later, Nortje cleaned up Faf du Plessis—CSK’s top scorer till Saturday—with a seam-up ball that went through the gap between body and bat. By the sixth over, DC had used Nortje, Avesh Khan, Kagiso Rabada and Axar Patel. Still, CSK reached 59/1, the sixth time they had scored 50 or more in the powerplay, the last five times resulting in victories.

With a 110-run second-wicket partnership, Ruturaj Gaikwad and Robin Uthappa threatened to make short work of the chase till Shreyas Iyer struck twice in the space of eight deliveries. First to go was Uthappa, who looked to clear the boundary with a hoick off Tom Curran over midwicket. But Iyer placed himself on the boundary, calmly caught the ball before popping it back in the air as he went over the rope before coming in to complete the catch. There are specific drills nowadays to practice such catches but it still boils down to the temperament and balance of the fielder. What happened next was also good training paying dividends. Ambati Rayudu, veteran of many chases, was eager to get a quick single but Iyer hared in from long-on to fire in a throw that lodged the ball perfectly in Rabada’s hands at the non-striker’s end. Rayudu was at least a yard short by the time Rabada dislodged the stumps.

Everything was going well till then. Gaikwad, in keeping with his form, was flaying Patel before setting sight on Khan and Nortje. Uthappa, the red-dye in his hair smudging on to his collar and helmet towards the end, started by caressing Nortje through covers. One more against Khan, and then against Rabada and Uthappa was off to a rare good start. The breakout however came in the sixth over when Uthappa thumped Khan for two boundaries and two sixes. Ashwin was pushing his luck with variations and a couple of dummy run-ins but was left smarting when Uthappa reverse swept him over short third-man for boundary to bring up the century partnership before skipping down the pitch and lifting Ashwin over his head. The shoulders were dropping, and by the 12th over, Pant was slapping away the throw-in, frustrated with Hetmyer allowing Uthappa and Gaikwad to run three. He knew they were slipping out of the game.

Despite the early dismissals of Shikhar Dhawan and Shreyas Iyer, Prithvi Shaw had set up DC beautifully with a 34-ball 60. The experiment of promoting Patel to No 4 flopped but Pant and Hetmyer combined to produce 83 runs for the fifth wicket. It could have been more productive had it not been for Moeen Ali making stroke playing almost impossible in the middle overs. Ali finished with 4-0-27-1, putting the onus back on Pant and Hetmyer to accelerate from the 15th over. Hetmyer squeezed in a few boundaries, Pant unleashed a one-handed six off Shardul Thakur and then against Bravo, but then Thakur bowled three consecutive dots in the last over. That over, coupled with Ali’s spell and Josh Hazlewood’s hostile opening salvo that took out Dhawan and Iyer ensured CSK weren’t caught out. They had successfully chased 171 against Kolkata Knight Riders at Abu Dhabi, roughly the same size as the ground in Dubai. So there was precedence. But this was a tougher chase, and needed Dhoni's touch.


    Somshuvra Laha is a sports journalist with over 11 years' experience writing on cricket, football and other sports. He has covered the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup, the 2016 ICC World Twenty20, cricket tours of South Africa, West Indies and Bangladesh and the 2010 Commonwealth Games for Hindustan Times.

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