Virender Sehwag was at his vintage best as he smashed a power-packed century to guide Kings XI Punjab to a convincing 24-run victory over Chennai Super Kings and a place in the final of the Indian Premier League on Friday night.
The swashbuckling opener flattened the Chennai attack with a 58-ball 122 that propelled his side to an imposing 226 for 6 after being put in bat on a batting paradise at the Wankhede stadium in Mumbai.
The Punjab side then survived a carnage from Suresh Raina, who responded with a majestic 25-ball 87, but Chennai could managed only 202 for 7 in their chase.
Punjab will play Kolkata Knight Riders in Sunday's final in Bangalore.
The hand-eye coordination, which has got Sehwag thousands of runs in international cricket, was at work again as he punished the hapless CSK bowlers while smashing his way to a magnificent 122, the highest individual score this season.
The former India opener is only the second batsman this season to score a century, after Mumbai Indians' Lendl Simmons who scored an unbeaten 100 against Punjab.
It was his second IPL hundred, the first having come in 2011 for Delhi Daredevils against Deccan Chargers.
Chennai skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni shuffled his bowlers around but nothing could stop Sehwag, who entertained the Wankhede crowd with eight sixes and 12 fours in his 58-ball knock.
This is not first time that Punjab tormented the Chennai bowlers like this; their previous highest score (231-4) also came against the Dhoni-led side.
Sehwag put on 110 runs for the first wicket with Manan Vohra (34) as he flattened the Super Kings bowling attack, which conceded a score in excess of 200 for the third time this season to the same opponents.
His pyrotechnics, when everyone expected Glenn Maxwell to be the bigger threat, caught the two-time former champions by surprise.
No one was spared by the bespectacled batsman, who completed his ton with a single in the 16th over off only 50 balls for the fastest hundred this IPL season.
Such was Sehwag’s domination of the Super Kings bowling that smart knocks from Vohra, who hit two sixes and a four in 31 balls, and David Miller (38 off 19 balls) was left in the shade.
Super Kings bled runs as their two lead spinners Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja conceded 44 and 48 runs respectively.
Paceman Ashish Nehra was the costliest, giving away 51 runs for the wickets of Sehwag and George Bailey.
Mohit Sharma gave away 46 runs while Ishwar Pandey was the only bowler to concede under 40.
No team has ever chased a 227-run target in T20 history, but Raina came up with an extraordinary knock which stunned the Punjab side.
He raced to the second fastest fifty in the IPL off just 16 balls when he lifted Sandeep Sharma over covers for a six.
In six overs, CSK were unbelievably placed at 100 for two, with Raina batting on 87 from 25 balls, 84 of them coming in boundaries, 12 fours and six awe-inspiring sixes.
However, he was run-out off the first ball after the power-play overs. Brendon McCullum called for a run but George Bailey found Raina short of the crease with a direct hit.
One of the most regal innings in T20s met with a tragic end but it opened up the game and Chennai were back in the match after a forgettable effort with the ball.
Raina's dismissal though opened up the gates as wickets started tumbling.
Brendon McCullum (11) met with the same fate as that of Raina and Ravindra Jadeja (27) was caught brilliantly by Mitchell Johnson off Parvinder Awana.
David Hussey (1) fell in that same Awana over, leaving his skipper Dhoni with the task of scoring 84 runs from 42 balls.
He has been an incredible finisher for his side but today his unbeaten 42 was not enough.
Image: Virender Sehwag