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Cometh the hour, Cometh the man. And that man is Mahendra Singh Dhoni. The Chennai Super Kings led by a masterclass from their skipper engineered a clinical display to eliminate the Mumbai Indians by a comprehensive margin of 38 runs at the garden city and with it march majestically into the Final qualifier. Captain Cool, donning his attacking avatar, smashed his way to an undefeated 20-ball 51 to turbo power the men in yellow to a gigantic 187-5. Dhoni and Dwayne Bravo walloped 73 runs in 29 deliveries to leave the Indians bloodied and bruised. Chennai's innings was in tatters at 1-2 before Mr. Cricket Mike Hussey(49) and Chennai's Rahul Dravid, S Badrinath(47) repaired the damage and provided the platform for the late assault with a crucial 94 run association. In pursuit of an intimidating 188, Mumbai got off to a flier thanks to the pyrotechnics of Dwayne Smith (38). Following Smith's dismissal, the wheels came off Mumbai's chase as they capitulated to 149-9. Dwayne Bravo and Albie Morkel scalped 2 wickets apiece to derail the Indians. At the end of the day, Dhoni's breathtaking helicopter shot summed up the fact that Chennai could do no wrong in high-pressure knock out clashes.
The reigning IPL Champions the Chennai Super Kings, sneaking into the play-offs through the back door, squared off against the Champion of Champions, Mumbai Indians in the high voltage Eliminator at the M.Chinnaswamy stadium in Bangalore on Wednesday night. Unlike the qualifier where the loser was granted a second bite at the cherry, the eliminator was a virtual quarter final. The match also assumed greater significance because of the fact that the lucrative Champions League spot was also on offer for the victors.
The Super Kings, known to revel in 'knock-out encounters' made two edits with Subramaniam Badrinath and Shadab Jakati coming in for the injured Anirudha Srikkanth and Vijaykumar Yo Mahesh respectively. Meanwhile, the Indians named an unchanged XI from their successful outing in Jaipur. The luck of the toss sided with Mumbai and Harbhajan Singh stuck to his 'chasing strategy' on a pitch that promised to facilitate stroke-play.
Bhajji, feeling the IPL trophy on his way out to the field, kick-started proceedings with an excellent first over, giving away just one run. Dhawal Kulkarni, took off from from where he had left off at the pink city and removed Murali Vijay(1) and Suresh Raina(0) off his first two deliveries. Both batsmen were guilty of having their feet planted firmly to the crease and succomed to the swing generated by Kulkarni. While Vijay's outside egde was grasped by Dinesh Karthik behind the sticks, Raina's inside edge helped the ball onto the off-stump. Chennai were in a world of trouble at 1-2.
This double strike invited Chennai's fire fighter, S Badrinath to middle. Badri responded well and got CSK up and running with a couple of boundaries. Mike Hussey, requiring 9 balls to open his account also plunged into the action. His cover drive off Lasith Malinga had class written all over it. The mandatory powerplay completely belonged to the Indians, whose bowlers never wavered from their jobs and reduced CSK to 30-2.
Mr. Cricket and the lion-hearted Badrinath steadied the rocking CSK ship. The pair resorted to smart cricket, gleefully accepting the ones and twos on offer to keep the score-card ticking.The fifty of the partnership was notched up in 48 balls. It was just what the doctor ordered for the Super Kings.
Post the first strategic time out, CSK stepped on the accelerator. Badrinath lit up the first DLF maximum of the night with a clean strike over deep midwicket. Hussey, soon followed it up with an equally brilliant hit over the bowler's head. Bhajji went from hot to cold, leaking 19 from the 11th over. The Mumbai commander, bereft of answers to Chennai's stirring fightback shuffled his bowlers ariound in vain. Hussey also played some deft late cuts and orchestrated perfect pulls, his timing left nothing to be wanted.
Finally, Mumbai sniffed out the alliance with Pollard causing Badri to hole out in the deep for a gold-dust like 47. Six balls later, James Franklin took down Hussey, one shy of a well-deserved half-century, Kulkarni completing a wonderful running catch to bring Mumbai roaring back into the contest.
Moments later, MS Dhoni found his range and launched the biggest six (112 m) of the season, depositing Kulkarni onto the roof of the Chinnaswamy stadium. Captain Cool came out with all guns blazing and dealt in sixes and fours. In the interim, Jadeja fell for a paltry 1. At 128-5 in 16 overs, with Dhoni in full tilt, CSK were eyeing a 160 plus total.
Even Lasith Malinga was not spared. The Ranchi Rockstar's signature helicopter six off Malinga sent out the message that he was the boss out there at the middle. Malinga completed his spell wicketless at an economy rate of over 10. Dhoni's ferocious power and incredible hand eye coordination came to the fore as Mumbai watched the patented CSK explosion in disbelief. Dwayne Bravo (33*) not to be left behind too joined the party. Bravo's lusty hits had a swashbuckling Caribbean flourish to it. Dhoni biffed 51 off just 20 deliveries.The awesome twosome churned out 73 in under 5 overs to power the men in yellow to a mammoth 187-5 in 20 overs.
Dwayne Smith made his intentions clear and ignited Mumbai's reply with some belligerent shots. Chennai's spearhead, Hilfenhaus spilled 28 from his first two overs. In contrast, Shadab Jakati, sharing the new ball with the Aussie was tidy and impressive .The hawk eyed West Indian destructo disk tore Hilfy apart, carting him all around the park. Smith's free swinging ways were indeed the ideal foil for Sachin's mastery. Against the run of play, a needless mix up between the wickets provided Chennai that much needed breakthrough. Tendulkar, after sacrificing his wicket walked up to the 29 year old and pepped him up to carry on. MI were keeping up with the chase at 54-1 in 6 overs.
Unfortunately for Mumbai, Smith failed to pay heed to the senior statesman's advice and fell prey to an over-ambitious heave over mid-wicket that was well snapped up by a back pedalling Jadeja. Smith had contributed a rapid fire 38 to the team's cause. The Goa tweaker capped off his spell with laudable figures of 1-25. Shortly after, Albie Morkel struck with his first ball to have Dinesh Karthik caught behind for 6.
Rohit Sharma(14) too departed in a similar fashion as the Big Cats of the IPL were on the prowl. Mumbai's slide showed no signs of abating as the most parsimonious bowler in the history of the IPL, Ravi Ashwin undid Ambati Rayudu(11) with flight. Rayudu's slog sweep flew into safe hands of Vijay at deep mid-wicket. The CSK opening batsman celebrated the catch, dancing like pop corn on hot fire. A couple of overs later, Bravo forced Franklin (13) back to the hutch too. MI were dead and buried at 103-6 in 14 overs.
The returning Hilfenhaus then brought about the downfall of Harbhajan for 1. He would have also clean bowled Kieron Pollard if he had not transgressed the bowling crease. But, Bravo completed the task by having Pollard (16) caught by the ever reliable Raina at long on. Eventually, Mumbai fell shy of the target by 38 runs.
One can never write the Super Kings off. Dhoni and his merry men will be waiting for the Delhi Daredevils at the M.A Chidambaram stadium on Wednesday. The men in yellow will leave no stone unturned in their quest to complete a hat-trick of title triumphs.
CSK: M Vijay, M Hussey, S Raina, MS Dhoni(c/wk), D Bravo, A Morkel, S Badrinath, R Jadeja, S Jakati, R Ashwin, B Hilfenhaus
MI: S Tendulkar, D Smith, R Sharma, A Rayudu, J Franklin, D Karthik(wk), K Pollard, H Singh(c), L Malinga, RP Singh, D Kulkarni.
CSK 187-5 (20 overs, 9.35 rpo)
MS Dhoni 51*(20) D Kulkarni 3-46
M Hussey 49(39) K Pollard 1-26
MI 149-9 (20 overs, 7.51 rpo)
D Smith 38(22) D Bravo 2-10
L Malinga 17(16) A Morkel 2-31
CSK win by 38 runs
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