CHANDIGARH: His legs were failing him, but he still soldiered on. He even howitzered the last ball for a six, but it was Kings XI Punjab players who jumped around in joy, as Chennai Super Kings skipper MS Dhoni watched the ball soar out of the ground on Sunday.
Much in line with the Men in Yellow’s go-to template of stealing victory from the jaws of defeat, the Chennai Super Kings skipper had stoked the team’s hopes with an unbeaten 44-ball 79. But Mohit Sharma didn’t let his nerves fray in the final over, defending 17 and handing his team a four-run victory.
Skipper R Ashwin and fellow tweaker Mujeeb Ur Rahman had pinned Chennai to the mat in their chase of 198. Murali Vijay failed to make an impact as first man up, and was scalped by Andrew Tye for a 10-ball 12.
Though Ambati Rayudu extended his rich vein of form, allying with Dhoni to revive their innings with a 57-run partnership for the fourth wicket. Shane Watson and Sam Billings failed to find their bearings. The asking rate refused to dip courtesy the pressure exerted by the hosts, and Rayudu succumbed, falling for a 35-ball 49.
Bogged down by a sore back and legs, Dhoni was saddled with the responsibility of the chase, with Ravindra Jadeja finding difficulties in middling the ball. Dhoni nurdled his way to a 34-ball 50, before trying to execute the death-over heists he has honed to perfection.
He almost succeeded. Skyscrapers of 9, 12, 19, 19 were erected as a flurry of scorching fours and sixes were unleashed from Dhoni’s blade. From 76 in five overs, the equation had been whittled down to 17 off the last over. But, Mohit’s tram-line targetting ensured that Chennai’s skipper couldn’t lug his team past the finishing line.
Earlier, many a Punjab player was intent on proving a point. For Ashwin, it was going up against a franchise that had been a perennial abode. For Chris Gayle, it was answering the shunning he had faced at the auctions before Punjab eventually changed their mind. Then there was KL Rahul, perhaps still smarting from his Royal Challengers Bangalore snub. And there was Mayank Agarwal, a man who couldn’t get past the doors of national selection despite having ratcheted up an avalanche of domestic records.
And prove a point they did. Gayle blasted his way to a 33-ball 63, with Rahul providing an able foil with his breezy 22-ball 37. Buoyed further by a 19-ball 30 from Mayank, Punjab coasted to 197, a mountain that eventually proved a bit too tall for Dhoni and his men to scale.
Brief scores: KXIP 197/7 in 20 ovs (Gayle 63, Rahul 37; Thakur 2/33, Tahir 2/34) bt CSK 193/5 in 20 ovs (Rayudu 49, Dhoni 79 n.o; Tye 2/47).