Dhoni takes Chennai to IPL semis

DHARAMSALA: Chennai Super Kings relied on a sensational late blitzkrieg by captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni (54 not out) to score a six-wicket victory over Kings XI Punjab and seal a semifinal berth in the IPL on Sunday.

Chasing a huge 193 for a win, Dhoni cracked a 29-ball unbeaten 54 with a late flourish of fours and sixes to take his side to victory with two balls to spare in a high scoring thriller at the HPCA Stadium.

Needing 16 runs from the last over, the Chennai captain hit a hapless Irfan Pathan for 18 runs with the help of two sixes and a four to take his side’s score to 195 for four in 19.4 overs.

Dhoni, who ended the match in style with a six, was dropped in the previous over bowled by Juan Theron when on 32, Pathan being the culprit.

Dhoni struck five fours and two sixes in his blistering innings sharing 47 runs from three overs in their unfinished fifth wicket with Albie Morkel (eight-ball 14). S Badrinath (53 in 36 balls ) and Suresh Raina (46 in 27 balls) were the other main contributors for Chennai.

With today’s win, Chennai ended their league engagements with 14 points from as many matches with a net run rate of plus 0.274. They have assured a semifinal spot in the tournament.

Earlier, put into bat, Punjab piled up a big 192 for three, thanks to a breezy 99-run unbeaten fourth wicket partnership between Shaun Marsh (88) and Pathan (44).

Chennai suffered two quick losses in the beginning of their run chase when off-spinner Ramesh Powar removed Murali Vijay (13) and his opening partner Matthew Hayden (5) cheaply.

Hayden departed in the third over after failing to read a Powar turner and gave a catch to Punjab wicketkeeper Kumar Sangakkara and then Vijay, who hit two fours during his brief 11-ball stay, was found short of the crease by the Sri Lankan.

Raina then teamed up with Badrinath when Chennai was struggling at 27 for two after the fourth over and the duo added 62 runs, before the former was removed by Juan Theron in the 10th over. Raina cracked five fours and three sixes.

After the dismissal of Raina, Badrinath, who hit seven fours and two sixes, and Dhoni tried to accelerate run-rate and added 59 runs for the fourth wicket partnership.

When the team was cruising towards the target, spinner Piyush Chawla struck in the 17th over by scalping Badrinath. But after that Dhoni and Morkel took Chennai home with some batting pyrotechnics.

Earlier, Marsh who struck eight fours and five sixes in his 57-ball innings, and Sri Lankan Mahela Jayawardene (21 off eight) started the Punjab innings on an attacking note but a couple of quick dismissals in the middle overs pulled their soaring run-rate down.

But Pathan, who cracked four fours and a six during his 27-ball innings, paired up with Marsh to bring the Punjab team closer to 200-run mark.

Jayawardene gave Punjab a flying start with two successive sixes in the first over of the match off paceman Sudeep Tyagi.

But the opening partnership, which yielded 34 runs off 17 balls, came to an end in the third over when Jayawardene’s ambitious shot off Morkel found Tyagi at mid-off region.

Sangakkara then teamed up with Marsh in the middle and added 56 runs for the second wicket partnership.

Young off-spinner R Ashwin struck in the 10th over by removing Sangakkara, who made 33 off 24 balls with the help of five fours, just when the two batsmen were going great guns.

Next to go was left-handed Yuvraj Singh (1) in the 11th over when Raina’s delivery found his leg in front of the stumps.

After Yuvraj’s dismissal, Punjab’s run-rate nosedived all of a sudden as the Chennai bowlers put up a stiffling performance in the middle overs.

To bring variety in bowling attack, Dhoni used as many as seven bowlers including Justin Kemp.

Marsh, who anchored the innings, was joined by Pathan as the duo added 99 runs in eight overs to help Punjab pile up a challenging total.

For Chennai, Morkel, Ashwin and Raina scalped one wicket apiece giving away 48, 20 and 33 runs respectively.(PTI)

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