The finisher is still alive. MS Dhoni has been a shadow of his former self for two seasons now, but just when it mattered on Sunday, the legend came into his own and took Chennai Super Kings into another IPL final.
The game was fluctuating from one end to the other and when Dhoni walked into bat ahead of Ravindra Jadeja, CSK needed 24 off 11 balls. The Delhi Capitals attack has the wherewithal to restrict the opposition, but Dhoni, still struggling with his timing, turned the clock back. One six off Avesh Khan in the 19th over and three boundaries off Tom Curran in the 20th sealed a superb win for CSK and took them to their ninth final.
While it was the batter Dhoni who took centre-stage just when it mattered, it was the skipper Dhoni’s decision to stick with Robin Uthappa ahead of Suresh Raina that went a long way in sealing the victory.
Even after two failures Uthappa was persisted with and the former India player came up with an absolute gem. 173 was a stiff target given the quality of Capitals attack and the fact that they had lost the in-form Faf du Plessis early made things even more difficult for CSK. But Uthappa played an innings which would have made him proud even in his heyday.
The Capitals bowlers seemed to lack the homework on the right-hander and made the mistake of not testing him with the short ball often enough. The Karnataka player was always a good player when the ball is pitched in his zone and he did just that on Sunday, hitting over the infield in Powerplay and racing away to 63 off 44 balls.
And once he got out, it was over to another jewel in CSK crown, Ruturaj Gaikwad (70 off 50 balls) who took them close. He mixed caution with aggression, anchored the innings, pulled out the big shot just when it mattered and the target was always within reach. His 110-run second-wicket partnership with Uthappa was the cornerstone of the CSK march as they won with two balls to spare.
The Dhoni-Ruturaj-Uthappa show stole the thunder from Capitals’ Prithvi Shaw and Pant, who did a great job to put up 172-5 on the board. Shaw’s beautiful, crisp 60 off 34 balls at the top of the order was followed up by a 51 off 35 balls by skipper at the back end as Capitals seemed well placed after the first half.
Shaw stuck into Deepak Chahar, who has often provided CSK with the initial breakthroughs. He was aided by a couple of top-edged boundaries and Chahar seemed to lose his trajectory after that. He started bowling on both sides of the stump and gave Shaw the necessary width that helped him to motor along. He lost his opening partner Shikhar Dhawan and No. 3 Shreyas Iyer quite early, but that didn’t stop him from going about his business.
But at the end of the day, it was not enough.