In one of the most thrilling matches in IPL history, table-toppers Kings XI Punjab recorded a 24-run victory over Chennai Super Kings on Friday to book their place in the IPL final despite a valiant effort from the two-time champions.
The Super Kings came into the match after a great performance in the Eliminator to dispose of the reigning champions, Mumbai Indians, but leaping the hurdle of Kings XI Punjab proved too tough a task for MS Dhoni’s side.
After being elected to bat first, Punjab demonstrated exactly why they topped the IPL table with a stunning display of batting at the Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai.
The opening partnership of Maman Vohra and Virender Sehwag romped to an unbeaten 70 in the powerplay, with the latter rolling back the years to put together a sensational innings.
The 35-year-old hit boundary after boundary in a relentless display of no-nonsense batting, chalking up 12 fours and eight sixes during his time at the crease.
Batsmen came and went during Sehwag’s reign in the middle, with Glenn Maxwell’s measly total of 13 giving Chennai hope of enjoying a fruitful bowling spell against the middle order.
However, Sehwag was handling everything that was thrown at him with consummate ease until the 19th over, where his wicket fell for 122 courtesy of an Ashish Nehra delivery.
As @OptaJim revealed on Twitter, it was a record-breaking innings for Sehwag, who walked off to a standing ovation following his dismissal:
Elsewhere, David Miller found some form, putting together a 38 before being clumsily run out, while opener Vohra reached 34 in a 110 opening partnership.
But it was Sehwag that stole the show, contributing massively to Punjab’s total of 226 and giving Chennai an incredibly tough chase.
|Virender Sehwag||c Francois du Plessis b Ashish Nehra||122||58||210.34|
|Manan Vohra||c Suresh Raina b Ishwar Pandey||34||31||109.67|
|Glenn Maxwell||c Suresh Raina b Ravichandran Ashwin||13||6||216.66|
|David Miller||run out (MS Dhoni)||38||19||200.00|
|George Bailey||b Ashish Nehra||1||2||50.00|
|Wriddhiman Saha||c Dwayne Smith b Mohit Sharma||6||4||150.00|
|Mitchell Johnson||NOT OUT||1||1||100.00|
If there was ever a franchise that could do it, though, it was the Super Kings—having shown several times during the 2013/14 IPL season that they simply don’t ever lie down and accept defeat.
However, their mission impossible got off to a nightmare start when Faf du Plessis went out for a duck after putting Mitchell Johnson’s delivery down George Bailey’s throat.
With the South African down, Suresh Raina took to the crease and produced one of the most remarkable knocks that the IPL has ever seen.
His 87 featured 12 fours and six sixes as Chennai registered a quite incredible 100/3 from the opening six overs, but just one ball later, the 27-year-old was out.
After some indecision from New Zealander Brendon McCullum, Raina was left in no man’s land as Bailey was left with the simple task of running him out.
It was a fantastic innings, though, and as Du Plessis correctly said after their victory over Mumbai Indians, Raina and Co. really make their mark on the big stage at the vital moments—per IPLT20.com:
"Suresh Raina has played a lot of cricket and has done it in high-pressure situations. And this is what CSK has done over a long period of time; in these stages of the competition, we play our best cricket."
However, Raina’s dismissal ended up being the turning point of the match as Punjab’s total never looked like coming under threat, with the rest of the Chennai order failing to produce the kind of cricket that Du Plessis spoke of.
Suresh Raina 87 off 25, his strike rate 348 is the highest by anyone in a T20 inns beating MS Dhoni 63* off 19 SR 331.57 (min 60 runs). #IPL— Cricket Record (@cricinfo_record) May 30, 2014
Johnson lifted his game as the overs ticked by, limiting the Super Kings’ middle order with the help of Parvinder Awana—taking three wickets between them.
Reaching their final total of 202/7 took a superb performance from Chennai, but it wasn’t enough to stop Kings XI Punjab from reaching their first-ever IPL final.
|Dwayne Smith||b Sandeep Sharma||7||11||63.63|
|Francois du Plessis||c George Bailey b Mitchell Johnson||0||1||0.00|
|Suresh Raina||run out (George Bailey)||87||25||348.00|
|Brendon McCullum||run out (Wriddhiman Saha)||11||16||68.75|
|Ravindra Jadeja||c Mitchell Johnson b Parvinder Awana||27||21||128.57|
|David Hussey||c Virender Sehwag b Parvinder Awana||1||3||33.33|
|MS Dhoni||NOT OUT||42||31||135.48|
|Ravichandran Ashwin||st Wriddhiman Saha b Akshar Patel||10||11||90.90|
|Mohit Sharma||NOT OUT||1||3||33.33|
There, they’ll meet Kolkata Knight Riders, who booked their place in Sunday’s final with a comprehensive 28-run victory over Punjab in Qualifier 1 on Wednesday.
However, Punjab will be out to get revenge on the side that came second in the IPL regular season, calling on players like Sehwag to once again show their brilliance as they chase down the title.
It’s all open on Sunday, and though the players will face a tough task in matching the kind of quality on display on Friday, there’ll once again be drama of the highest order as IPL 7 comes to a close.