In what has widely been termed the most engaging IPL season of all, returning franchise Chennai Super Kings have defied predictions to become the first to reach the final.
Retaining the core of their successful players over nine seasons, with the exception of R Ashwin, and some smart new purchases proved immense in the MS Dhoni-led franchise finishing second on the points table at the end of the league phase. In the first Qualifier, CSK beat table-toppers Sunrisers Hyderabad for the third time in a row this season to move to Sunday’s IPL 2018 final.
Here, TOI Sports charts CSK’s road to the summit.
1st match v MI in Mumbai – Won by 1 wicket
A close win that came down to the penultimate ball of the game. Chasing 166, CSK lost wickets at regular intervals without anyone but Dwayne Bravo crossing 24. CSK were checked at 27/1, 42/2, 42/3, 51/4, 75/5 and 84/6 before Bravo cut loose. At 118/8 the game still looked gone for CSK when Kedar Jadhav, who had earlier retired hurt, came back to bat. As Bravo went berserk, hitting seven sixes and three fours before he was ninth out at 159, Jadhav held his nerve and delivered a thrilling win with some audacious shots in the last over.
2nd match v KKR in Chennai – Won by 5 wickets
Another penultimate-delivery chase sealed by CSK, but this time the target was 203 after Andre Russell bashed his way to 88 not out off 36 balls, hitting 11 sixes. Shane Watson (42 off 19) and Ambati Rayudu (39 off 26) gave CSK a terrific start but wickets left them in trouble. It was down to Englishman Sam Billings to take CSK to the doorstep of victory with a 23-ball 56, before Ravindra Jadeja and Bravo struck sixes to complete a superb chase.
3rd match v KXIP in Chandigarh – Lost by four runs
CSK came very close to chasing KXIP’s 198. After the early departures of Watson and Vijay, and Billings for 9, Rayudu made 49 and Dhoni a very robust unbeaten 79 off 44 balls, but perhaps the CSK skipper left his assault for too late. CSK had five wickets in hand and came up four runs short.
4th match v RR in Pune – Won by 64 runs
This time CSK batted first, and led by Watson’s 106 they piled up 204/5 which proved way too many for Rajasthan Royals. Deepak Chahar and Shardul Thakur struck big blows up front and Bravo and Karn Sharma completed the rout.
5th match v SRH in Hyderabad – Won by 4 runs
Suresh Raina’s first meaningful contribution (54* off 43 balls) laid the base for Rayudu (79 off 37) and Dhoni (25* off 12) to add the blitz in a total of 182/3 on a tough track. A terrific Powerplay spell of 3/15 from Chahar reduced SRH to 22/3 but Kane Williamson (84) and Yusuf Pathan (45) threatened to do damage before late wickets stalled SRH. Rashid Khan’s four-ball 17 almost beat CSK at the death.
6th match v RCB in Bengaluru – Won by 5 wickets
Again CSK conceded over 200, and again they won in the last over. Again it was Rayudu (82) and Dhoni (70*) who starred in victory, the CSK skipper hitting seven sixes in another eye-popping performance.
7th match v MI in Pune – Lost by 8 wickets
Raina’s 75* off 47 balls helped CSK to 169/5 but it was not enough to prevent defeat to Mumbai, who knocked off the target with eight wickets and two balls remaining.
8th match v DD in Pune – Won by 13 runs
Fifties to Watson (78 off 40) and Dhoni (51* off 22) with help from Rayudu (41) formed the crux of a total of 211/4, which Delhi Daredevils almost overhauled. The timely removal of Rishabh Pant for 79 proved the biggest factor in CSK’s win.
9th match v KKR – Lost by 6 wickets
Dhoni’s 43* of 25 balls was the highest score of CSK’s 177/5 but some good bowling meant that KKR were in some bother at 97/4 in the 12th over before Shubman Gill (57* off 36) and Dinesh Karthik (45* off 18) combined for a match-winning partnership.
10th match v RCB in Pune – Won by 6 wickets
Jadeja was Man of the Match for taking 3/18 as RCB were kept to 127/9, his wickets including that of Virat Kohli first ball. A series of cameos took CSK home, with Dhoni again contributing.
11th match v RR in Jaipur – Lost by 4 wickets
A good total, made possible by Raina’s 52 and 33* from Dhoni, almost proved enough for CSK. No batsman from the RR camp crossed 22 except Jos Buttler, and that was the difference in the result. Buttler smacked 11 fours and two sixes in his unbeaten 95 off 60 balls to clinch a vital win for RR.
12th match v SRH in Pune – Won by 8 wickets
Chasing 180, CSK romped home in 19 overs thanks to Watson’s breezy 59 and a maiden IPL century from Rayudu who finished the job with 100* off 62 balls.
13th match v DD in Delhi – Lost by 34 runs
An odd defeat, though it proved inconsequential for CSK’s play-off chances. Chasing a target of 163, CSK’s batsmen succumbed in shoddy manner even as Rayudu smacked 50 off 29 balls. Jadeja was not out on 27 off 18 balls when the game ended with CSK 128/6 after 20 overs.
14th match v KXIP in Pune – Won by 5 wickets
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