There’s life in the old man yet.
In his team’s biggest match of the season, Virender Sehwag rolled back the years with a joyously punchy 58-ball 122 to power Kings XI Punjab to 226 for 6, a total that proved enough to seal their passage to the IPL final for the first time in seven seasons. Needing to achieve the highest successful chase in Twenty20 history, Chennai Super Kings were given an out-of-this-world start by Suresh Raina, whose 25-ball 87 took the two-time champions to a record 100 for 1 in the Powerplay, but his dismissal cued a slide that left even the game’s greatest finisher with too much to do.
KXIP’s 24-run win denied CSK their fifth consecutive IPL final and means that the top two teams this season will meet in Sunday’s final in Bangalore.
MS Dhoni had opted to field on a what looked a brownish and abrasive pitch in the second Qualifier, but all theories and notions took a backseat as Sehwag sped to a thrilling century off 50 balls – his second in the tournament’s history – to power KXIP to their second-highest total ever. Few can claim to not have been touched by Sehwag’s batting Friday night at the Wankhede Stadium.
The assault began in the fourth over bowled by Ishwar Pandey, with Sehwag crunching a couple fours in between sixes off the first and last balls by Manan Vohra; it was continued with three slapped fours off Ashish Nehra in the next over and an uppercut six off Mohit Sharma. The car had bolted and Sehwag was not slowing down.
R Ashwin, who had used a post-match interview on Wednesday to warn Glenn Maxwell that he’d operate with an around-the-stumps line, was welcomed into the attack by Sehwag with a six down the ground. Ravindra Jadeja was clubbed over his head for six and then taken for two fours. Sehwag’s fifty came off 21 balls with a single.
It took a great catch from Raina to end the partnership, as Vohra top-edged a pull high into the sky and was excellently taken in the midwicket region. Entering at 110 for 1 in the 11th over, the stage was set for Maxwell to tee off but he got as far as 13 before hitting Ashwin to cow corner. Luckily for KXIP, that wicket was hardly felt thanks to Sehwag, who collected two more casual sixes down the ground of his Delhi team-mate Nehra, and then reached the landmark in the 16th over, celebrating with a raise of the fists and an endearing grin.
In the 18th over, it was Jadeja’s turn to feel the brunt of Sehwag’s force, 16 runs coming in three balls with to give the left-arm spinner bruising figures of 0 for 48 in four overs. Nehra signed off with a superb 19th over that cost just seven and included the wickets of Sehwag, well held by Faf du Plessis at extra cover, and George Bailey but the damage had been done. David Miller made 38 off 19 before he was run out in the 20th over, but the damage had been done.
When CSK’s chase started with du Plessis top-edging his first ball to midwicket, KXIP were in high spirits but their celebrations were short-lived. Raina glanced his first ball for four and then waded into Sandeep Sharma, who he struck for three fours and a six on the second over. A couple fours off Parwinder Awana left KXIP frustrated, but what really rattled them was Raina hitting Mitchell Johnson a four and two sixes in the fourth over, taking CSK to 56 for 1.
His fifty needed just 16 balls, up with a lofted six off Sandeep, and Raina then feasted on some filthy bowling from Awana, who conceded 33 in the sixth over. It was carnage: six, six, four, four, four off a no-ball, four and four. After six overs, Raina was 87 off 25 and CSK needed to chase at 9.07. But there were more twists in the contest.
It took a superb throw from Bailey in the covers to see off Raina; a pick-and-throw nailing the stumps with an outstretched Raina just short. That wicket marked a gradual changing of momentum, as CSK’s middle order struggled to maintain the intensity. Brendon McCullum ate 16 balls to score 11, Jadeja 21 for his 27 and David Hussey made just one. The wickets of Jadeja and Hussey in the 13th over were massive, with Awana coming back very impressively after the treatment meted out by Raina. CSK went more than four overs without finding the boundary, and by the time Dhoni hit his first six the required rate has soared past 14 an over. That passage of play proved huge in CSK losing their way, and they can only blame themselves. Dhoni’s terse words after the match indicate that all is not well within the CSK camp.
Brief scores: Kings XI Punjab 226 for 6 in 20 overs (Virender Sehwag 122, David Miller 38) beat Chennai Super Kings 202 for 7 in 20 overs (Suresh Raina 87, MS Dhoni 42*) by 24 runs