Chennai Super Kings cruised to a comfortable eight-wicket victory over an out-of-sorts Royal Challengers Bangalore to strengthen their second place in the seventh edition of the IPL at the Eden Gardens on Saturday.
Chasing a modest target of 154 set by Bangalore largely due to Virat Kohli's 49-ball-73, the Chennai batsmen made minimum fuss as a collective effort saw them cross the line with as many as 14 balls to spare.
Chennai thus finished their league engagements with 18 points from 14 games by virtue of nine victories. Their net run-rate is +0.385 which they would expect that Kolkata does not surpass during their evening match against Sunrisers Hyderabad.
Faf du Plessis revelled in the role of an opener scoring an unbeaten 54 and also enjoying couple of fruitful partnerships of 57 for the opening stand with Dwayne Smith (34) and an unbroken 75 runs with skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni for the third wicket.
Dhoni, who is always in his element in the cash-rich league, smacked his way to 49 off only 28 balls to ensure that the run-rate is suitably beefed up. Dhoni's innings had four boundaries and three sixes while Du Plessis hit three fours and three sixes.
He was severe on the left-arm spinners as two of his three sixes came in Yuvraj Singh's one over and the other was hit off Shadab Jakati.
The winning hit came off Du Plessis' bat as he lofted Jakati for a big six to end it in style.
Smith again gave Chennai a good start as he smashed his way to 34 off 17 balls with four boundaries and a six. Chennai had pocketed the match by the end of the Powerplay as 64 runs came off six overs.
Left-arm spinner Jakati, who had enjoyed a bit of success for the Chennai, had a horrible outing giving away 41 runs in his listless 3.4 overs. Mitchell Starc was also hammered for 33 runs in three overs.
Earlier, Kohli stood tall among his struggling teammates with a stroke-filled half-century. He struck 73 off 49 balls with two fours and five sixes as some of the other batsmen failed to get going against a disciplined Chennai attack.
Veteran left-arm seamer Ashish Nehra impressed one and all with figures of three for 33 including two beautiful deliveries to dismiss Rilee Russouw (1) and AB de Villiers (10). He got the South Africa's limited overs captain with a perfect yorker that pegged the middle-stump back.
In his final over, Nehra removed rival skipper Kohli to show that Dhoni's decision to field him after a gap of 12 matches (he played the first match) was correct. Save Kohli, none of other batsmen could find their feet and he fought a lone battle against Chennai.
Out of his five sixes, four were hit over the deep mid-wicket region while the other was hit in the long-off region. Kohli was finally out when Nehra bowled a well disguised slower delivery that rolled into the stumps.
Kohli had a 55-run partnership for fourth wicket with Yuvraj and scripted a 42-run partnership for fifth wicket with De Villiers, before the mercurial South African was castled by Nehra.
With three down for 33 in sixth over, Yuvraj and Kohli out their heads down to build the innings. In tenth over, Kohli cut lose and plundered 10 runs along with Yuvraj , which also included a six off Ashwin over long-on. In the next 18 deliveries, Yuvraj and Kohli cracked 27 runs with flurry of boundaries against Sures Raina and Ashwin.
However, the Rs 14-crore baby was out to a woeful shot off to left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja for 25 off 24 balls with two boundaries, leaving Bangalore struggling at 88 for four in 14 overs.
Image: Chennai Super Kings captain MS Dhoni and Faf du Plessis walk back after helping their team beat Royal Challengers Bangalore