After struggling all season, Chennai Super Kings skipper MS Dhoni played his best T20 knock since 2019 to help CSK book their place in Friday’s final. It was a day that belonged to the Old Guard, as while the chase of 173 was set-up by Robin Uthappa’s 63, it was finished off by a vintage cameo from Dhoni. Delhi had their chances to finish CSK, but let the game slip through some questionable decision-making.
Shaw sizzles but his teammates struggle
Having opted to get rid of a batting option to include Tom Curran, Delhi needed at least one of their openers to go big, and luckily Prithvi Shaw hit full gear. Shaw had threatened to get back to form in DC’s last two group games, but today the explosive right-hander, with a fair bit of luck, played a trademark knock up front. The 21-year-old, on a typically slow Dubai wicket, cut loose in the powerplay and took a liking to the CSK seamers. His onslaught took the Capitals to 51 inside the powerplay. Shaw kept going after the powerplay too, and he eventually brought up his first fifty of the UAE leg off just 27 balls.
But at the other end, no Delhi batter was able to find any sort of rhythm. Shikhar Dhawan perished for a run-a-ball 7, while Shreyas Iyer struggled immeasurably for an over-and-a-half before departing for 1(8). There was a surprise promotion for Axar Patel, but the move turned out to be a failure. The southpaw struck just one boundary off 11 balls, and perished for 10 in the tenth over trying to take on the off-spin of Moeen Ali.
DC finished the halfway mark at 79/3, with Shaw getting 60 of those runs.
Hetmyer and Pant play invaluable knocks to power Delhi to 172
The second half of the innings started in the worst fashion imaginable for Delhi, with Prithvi Shaw perishing on just the second ball, trying to loft Ravindra Jadeja over the cover region.
However, despite being a batsman short, the Capitals produced their best batting-first performance of the season to post 170 on a not-so-great Dubai surface.
And it was possible due to a 83-run stand between Shimron Hetmyer and Rishabh Pant, who frustrated the Super Kings throughout their stay.
Piggybacking off the confidence he’d gained from earlier knocks, Hetmyer hurt CSK with his intent. The West Indian kept finding the boundaries at regular intervals and gave the bowlers no space to breathe. He rotated strike efficiently too, and eventually finished on 37 (24) before holing out to Jadeja.
His partner, Pant, had a lot of luck, still kept his composure and accelerated after a slow start to bring up his third fifty of the season. Pant scored just 12 off his first 15 balls, but managed to collect 39 off his last 20. The DC skipper overcame CSK’s off-stump ploy and, together with Hetmyer, took the side to a 170-plus total.
The CSK seamers blew hot and cold, and it was a disappointing showing in particular from Dwayne Bravo. Dhoni held back the veteran specifically for the death overs, but the 38-year-old conceded 31 off his 3 overs. He did manage to pick up the big wicket of Hetmyer, but it was an underwhelming showing from the experienced campaigner.
Robin Uthappa rolls back the years as CSK endure perfect start
On just the fourth ball of the chase, CSK lost Faf du Plessis through an absolute rocket from Anrich Nortje, and in that very moment you worried for the side. So much of their success came on the back of contributions from Ruturaj Gaikwad and du Plessis, and thus losing one pillar in the very first over spelt trouble.
But walking in at No.3, Robin Uthappa rolled back the years to play arguably his best IPL knock in three seasons.
The 35-year-old started his innings off with a leaning drive through the off-side, and did not look back after that. He put the foot on the pedal and completely took the onus of quick run-scoring upon himself. This ended up taking significant pressure off Gaikwad who, after two low scores, had the time to play himself in.
The DC bowlers had no answers and CSK ended the halfway mark on 81/1, fully in control of the chase.
CSK stutter but Dhoni finishes it off in style!
At 111/1 after 11 overs, the Super Kings were coasting. Both Uthappa and Gaikwad were well set, and the job of crossing the finish line felt like a mere formality. However, Uthappa would then endure fitness troubles, something that would end up turning the game around.
In pursuit of boundaries due to his inability to run, Uthappa holed out to Shreyas Iyer in the deep in the 14th over. A surprise promotion for Shardul Thakur followed but he only lasted a single ball, perishing to the bowling of Tom Curran trying to whack one down the ground. And two became three in no time as Ambati Rayudu ended up getting run out due to some sensational work from Rabada.
A fine 30-run partnership between Moeen Ali and Gaikwad then kept CSK in the game but Gaikwad’s dismissal in the 19th over seemed to have signal the death knell. In walked MS Dhoni ahead of Ravindra Jadeja, and the promotion sent the entire internet, CSK fans included, into meltdown.
However, in what was indisputably his best IPL knock since 2019, the CSK skipper rolled back the years to finish the job off for his side. On just his second ball, Dhoni smashed a length ball from Avesh Khan into the mid-wicket stands, and then, with CSK needing 13 off 5 balls, struck three consecutive fours to take the Super Kings over the line.
DC bizarrely opted for Curran to bowl the final over, instead of Rabada, and the gamble did not pay off. The elder Curran was predictable, and Dhoni, with a tinge of luck, put all his experience into play to take the Super Kings over the line. In one knock, 'Thala' ended up silencing all the critics.