The picturesque Dharamsala was treated to a spectacular match as nerves tingled in a do-or-die for Chennai. Put to a gruelling test, the Super Kings managed to get the better part of the Kings XI Punjab but only after a stiff battle.
The match kickstarted after the Dalai Lama personally greeted members of both teams. But all peace thereafter was shattered by the extravaganza of runs that made for a rather thrilling encounter – a humdinger.
If Chennai thought that KXIP, being out of the reckoning, would do them any favours, none were forthcoming. In fact, Chennai were put to the sternest test and needed to pull everything within their power to steer the team to a win and spot in the IPL 3 semi finals.
Shaun Marsh made Chennai pay for Albie Morkel’s dropped catch, plundering runs with the finesse of a specialist and generally making it very tough for the visitors to contain the KXIP scoreboard.
Kumar Sangakkara was involved in yet another valid contribution, making thirty-three runs. But on this occasion, he was dwarfed by the efforts of Marsh and Irfan Pathan in the latter overs to really test the mettle of the CSK.
Pathan’s forty-four from twenty-seven balls nearly crushed the Chennai team already reeling under pressure from Marsh whose eighty-eight runs were imposing and soul destroying for the Chennai’s bowlers. Mahendra Singh Dhoni struggled to keep a lid on the run procession and with the dropped catch, it appeared, at one point, that Chennai would be paying heavily for it.
Chasing 193, the task could not get more daunting than this. It did not help that Matthew Hayden’s bat was silenced rather early and Murali Vijay gifted his wicket to a stumping that was rather unnecessary seeing that he was in his element until that point.
However, Subramaniam Badrinath and Suresh Raina did not wilt under pressure. Rather they absorbed it rather well, and eased the pressure of the run rate by regularly finding the boundary. With the duo at the crease, Chennai’s case fortified.
But in a situation where a team has to go at ten runs an over from the start and knowing that nothing short of a win would ensure a semi final, pressure is always preceding them. It was the reason Badrinath was furious at losing his wicket to a stumping having made fifty-three from thirty-six. But the spinners bowled well for the KXIP, Romesh Powar at the start and then Piyush Chawla. By then, Raina had already fallen for forty-six runs and it meant that the task was once again handed to new hands with no time for settling in.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni started out scratchily and Albie Morkel found the rare boundary. But Chennai were reaching a situation where they needed nearly three runs a ball. But slowly the duo milked singles where available and then, as the target got close, bided their time for that elusive loose over of the match. Dhoni became possessed once the target reduced from twenty-nine runs need from twelve balls to sixteen runs off the final over. A boundary, two explosive sixes and a half century for the CSK captain saw the team canter into the IPL 3 semi finals with six wickets and two balls to spare, Justin Kemp not required to bat at all.
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