Ruturaj Gaikwad continued his golden run with his third half-century in a row to help Chennai Super Kings end on a high, with a hat-trick of victories, even as they failed to make the IPL playoffs for the first time.
Gaikwad impressed with a sparkling innings of 62 not out from 49 balls, hitting six fours and a six, as CSK easily chased down the target of 154, with nine wickets in hand and seven balls to spare.
Young Gaikwad has been the one big positive in an otherwise lacklustre IPL campaign for CSK this season.
The Maharashtra batsman didn't have the best of time coming into the tournament as he tested positive for COVID-19 in the UAE in the lead up to IPL 2020. He hardly had any time to prepare and it showed when he fell for 0, 5, 0 in his first three innings and was on the verge of being relegated to the sidelines before he responded with three half-centuries in a row.
'This Covid has made me tough,' the 23 year old had said.
A 'tough' Gaikwad has shown all the requisites to be the next big thing in the IPL. He has the technique and definitely the temperament like his captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni and could be a big part of CSK going forward in the years to come.
CSK had nothing to play for, except end their faltering campaign on a high, but Kings XI Punjab had to win at all costs with the playoff spot on the line.
CSK Openers Gaikwad and Faf du Plessis foiled KXIP's plan with a solid partnership.
Gaikwad took time to get going as he struggled to 3 from 11 balls before he broke the shackles by pulling Chris Jordan for a six over midwicket in the third over.
He then played a delightful drive through the covers for his first four off Mohammed Shami in the fifth over, while du Plessis hit leg-spinner Ravi Bishnoi for a four and six to take CSK to 57-0 in six overs after the powerplay.
Gaikwad, on 20 from 21 balls, enjoyed a stroke of luck as Mandeep Singh took an outstanding catch off Bishnoi in the eighth over, but as he hit the ground the ball touched the ground and was ruled not out by television umpire Chris Gaffney.
He then made it worse for Kings XI and Bishnoi as he cut the very next delivery for a four behind point.
Du Plessis perished for 48 in the 10th over, but Gaikwad ensured that he along with the experienced Ambati Rayudu kept KXIP bowlers at bay to extinguish their playoff hopes.
Gaikwad played a couple of magnificent boundaries using the inside out lofted shot over the covers off leggie Bishnoi in the 16th over to bring up his fifty, from 38 balls.
India's top pacer Shami got a taste of Gaikwad's talent when the right-hander played a thumping pull shot off a short ball over midwicket in the 18th over as CSK wrapped up an easy win, which also helped them avoid the ignominy of finishing bottom of the IPL table.