Captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni blasted a quickfire half-century to carry Chennai Super Kings to a thrilling six-wicket victory over Kings XI Punjab in the Indian Premier League match, in Dharamsala, on Sunday.
Dhoni finished off the match in style, hitting two huge sixes off Irfan Pathan, as Chennai posted 195 for four in 19.4 overs to win with two deliveries to spare and qualify for the semi-finals. His unbeaten 54 from 29 balls, inclusive of five boundaries and two sixes, brought his team back from the dead, as they needed 44 from the last three overs.
Ramesh Powar took two for 28 from his four overs to give Kings XI Punjab a good start with the ball. Chennai opener Matthew Hayden failed yet again; he was caught behind by Kumar Sangakkara off Powar for five. Murali Vijay made 13 before he was stumped by wicketkeeper Sangakkara down the leg side.
Suresh Raina's sterling counter-attack put Chennai Super Kings back in the hunt after the loss of a couple of early wickets. The left-hander slammed 46 from 27 balls, inclusive of five boundaries and three sixes, before he was caught on the cover boundary.
Subramaniam Badrinath hit a brisk 53 from 36 balls before he was stumped by Sangakkara off Piyush Chawla.Earlier, Shaun Marsh smashed a quickfire 88 to lift Kings XI Punjab to 192 for three in their 20 overs.
Marsh, dropped on 10, got off to a nervous start. He made steady progress before cutting loose in the final overs, hitting eight boundaries and five sixes in his 57-ball knock. The left-hander was virtually unstoppable in the final few overs as he put on an unbroken stand of 99 runs in 48 balls for the fourth wicket with Irfan Pathan, who slammed 44 from 27 balls.
Mahela Jayawardene gave Punjab a flying start, hitting a quick 21 from eight balls, inclusive of two boundaries and two sixes, before Sudeep Tyagi held on to a good catch off Albie Morkel.
Chennai staged a brief comeback in the middle overs with two quick wickets. Sangakkara was bowled by R Ashwin for 33 from 24 balls as he attempted to play the slog sweep. In the next over, Yuvraj Singh was trapped leg before wicket by Suresh Raina for one, attempting the sweep shot.
Earlier, Chennai captain Dhoni won the toss and elected to field in a do-or-die match for them. But their bowlers, except for R Ashwin (one for 20 in four overs), let them down, Albie Morkel taking one for 48 in four overs, while Doug Bollinger giving away 39 runs in his four overs.
Kings XI Punjab:
Mahela Jayawardene got the innings off to a blazing start, hitting Sudeep Tyagi for back to back sixes in the first over of the match. The Punjab opener then smashed Albie Morkel for a couple of boundaries before the South African pacer had his revenge in the same over.
Jayawardene, who had scored 21 from eight balls, did not get enough elevation as he tried to lift it over the bowler and Tyagi completed a brilliant one-handed catch jumping high at mid-off.
Shaun Marsh got a lifeline on 10 when Morkel dropped a simple catch at fine leg in R Ashwin's first over.
Captain Kumar Sangakkara looked to adopt a positive approach as he raced to 19, which was inclusive of four boundaries, including a couple off Tyagi's second over.
Marsh went after Justin Kemp in his first over as he hit the medium pacer for two boundaries in a row, straight down the ground.
After a good first over, part-timer Suresh Raina went for two boundaries in his second over as Punjab reached 86 for one at the halfway stage.
Ashwin then grabbed his first wicket, bowling Sangakkara for 33 from 24 balls, as the left-hander looked to sweep him across the line, in the 11th over.
Marsh went after left-arm spinner Shadab Jakati in his first over as he slog-swept him for a six followed by a boundary over the short fine leg fielder. The Australian left-hander then slammed Raina straight down the ground for a huge six to bring up his half-century in style from 41 balls and he then repeated that shot for another boundary in that over.
Marsh was threatening to take charge as he cut loose in style. He slog-swept Morkel for a big six that went out of the stadium, to take the total to 131 for three after 15 overs. The South African pacer continued to get some rough treatment as Irfan Pathan and Marsh hit him for a boundary each in his next over.
Marsh then took compatriot Bollinger to the cleaners, hitting him for two big sixes down the ground, and Pathan got a top edge over the wicketkeeper for a boundary for 19 runs from the 19th over.
In the final over, Pathan he hit a full toss from Morkel through fine leg for a four followed by a six over long-on.
Marsh finished unbeaten on a cracking innings of 88 from 57 balls, having hit eight boundaries and five sixes, to take Punjab to a huge 192 for three in their 20 overs.
Pathan also showed his batting prowess in the final overs, smashing 44 from 27 balls, as the left-hander was involved in a blazing unbroken partnership of 99 runs in 48 balls for the fourth wicket.
It went horribly wrong for Chennai in the final few overs as Punjab smashed 46 from the last three overs to take control.
Ashwin was again Chennai's best bowler, taking one for 20 in four overs, but the rest of the bowlers suffered some punishment.
After a steady start, Marsh changed gears in style and launched a huge six towards the end. The left-hander had scored just 14 runs from the first 20 balls and it took him 41 balls to get to his fifty, but thereafter he took the bowlers apart.
Chennai Super Kings:
With Matthew Hayden struggling for runs, Chennai failed to get going at the start. Off-spinner Ramesh Powar gave away just one run in the first over of the innings before claiming the wicket of Hayden in his next, having him caught behind for five.
Since his blazing innings of 93 against Delhi Daredevils using the mini Mongoose Hayden has failed to live upto expectations; his run tally reads 321 in 14 matches, an average of 22.92.
Irfan Pathan went for three boundaries in his second over, with new batsman Suresh Raina hitting two of them and Murali Vijay chipping one over midwicket.
It was Powar who dealt Chennai another big blow when he claimed the wicket of Vijay for 13. The right-hander was beaten in the flight before he was neatly stumped by wicketkeeper Sangakkara down the leg side as the visitors were reduced to 27 for two in the fifth over.
Raina looked to make most of the fielding restrictions as he hit Powar for a couple of boundaries in that over. The left-hander then stepped out of the crease to pacer VRV Singh and hit him straight down the ground for a six.
S Badrinath got his first six when he charged down the wicket to Powar and deposited a full delivery into the stands over long-on for his first six of the innings. But the Punjab off-spinner finished off with a good spell of two for 28 in four overs with Chennai reaching 60 for two after seven overs.
Raina then top edged a six trying to pull VRV Singh over fine leg to become the first player to cross the 1300-run mark in the IPL.
The Chennai left-hander then went after UP team mate Piyush Chawla, who he pulled for a boundary through midwicket and then hit down the ground for a straight six, in the ninth over.
Punjab introduced pacer Juan Theron and the move paid off. Theron got the big wicket of the high flying Raina, who was caught on the cover boundary after a blazing innings of 46 from 27 balls, inclusive of five boundaries and three sixes.
Dhoni showed some intent when he hit a boundary off the first ball he faced, from Theron, to take the total to 94 for three after ten overs.
Badrinath took over the mantle after Raina's departure and lifted Theron over cover for a six followed by a boundary through fine leg.
Raina's dismissal slowed down Chennai's run rate considerably. Just 21 runs came from three overs as they reached 130 for three after 15 overs, needing to score 63 from the last five overs for victory.
It was Badrinath who kept his team in the hunt as he swept Chawla for a boundary to bring up his half-century from just 35 balls. But Chawla had the last laugh by having him stumped off the very next delivery for 53 from 36 balls as he attempted a similar shot.
With 44 needed from the last three overs, Punjab had the edge but Chennai still had hope with Dhoni out in the middle.
Albie Morkel hit VRV Singh for two boundaries in the 18th over that fetched 15 runs to keep his team in the hunt.
Dhoni then cut loose as he slammed Theron for back-to-back boundaries before he was dropped by Sangakkara on 32 off a thick outside edge.
That drop proved fatal for Punjab as Dhoni finished off the match in the next over. Pathan failed to find the right length in his bid to bowl the yorker in the final over of the innings and was taken apart by the Chennai captain.
With 16 needed from the final over, Dhoni didn't panic at all. He started that over by hitting a full delivery from Pathan down the ground for a boundary before ending the match in some style with back-to-back sixes over midwicket.
That second six got Dhoni his half-century as he finished unbeaten on 54 from 29 balls to take Chennai to 195 for four in 19.4 overs for a six-run victory.
Chennai were assured of a place in the semi-finals after they jumped to second in the standings with 14 points from as many games, ahead of Royal Challengers Bangalore, Delhi Daredevils and Deccan Chargers on a superior run rate.
Powar gave Punjab a good start, claiming two for 28 in four overs, and Chawla claimed one for 28, but the pacers struggled in the final few overs as the hosts suffered their tenth loss in the tournament.