Cricket

Chennai Super Kings seal top-two finish despite convincing defeat

Kings XI Punjab 173 for 4 (Rahul 71, Pooran 36*, Harbhajan 3-57) beat Chennai Super Kings 170 for 5 (Du Plessis 96, Raina 53, Curran 3-35, Shami 2-17) by six wickets

A blistering half-century from KL Rahul to begin their chase ensured Kings XI Punjab avoided the wooden spoon, scoring a consolation six-wicket victory over Chennai Super Kings to finish their IPL 2019 campaign on a high. Rahul’s 71 off 36 balls as part of a 108-run opening stand with a sedate Chris Gayle powered Kings XI towards the target of 171, eventually knocked off with 12 balls to spare.

The main objective for Super Kings, though, was to ensure the second innings lasted at least 14.3 overs, which would ensure their spot in the top two of the standings and an automatic berth in Tuesday’s Qualifier 1. Nicholas Pooran had threatened to overhaul the target in that span after taking over the reins from Rahul with some sensational big-hitting, but the spin duo of Harbhajan Singh and Ravindra Jadeja continued slowed down the Kings XI charge long enough to get the job done.

Rahul’s innings turned Faf du Plessis‘ superb 96 off 54 balls into a footnote. But the fall of du Plessis, Sam Curran’s third wicket on the day, ground the Super Kings innings to a halt at the death. They managed just seven runs off the last nine balls thanks to the brilliance of Curran and Mohammed Shami. It set up a cinch of a chase for Kings XI to give the home fans a bit of cheer at the end of another season in which they fell short of the playoffs.

Du Plessis turns it on

The South African’s innings was classically paced, easing his way to a half-century off 37 balls before bringing out the fireworks. Du Plessis added 120 for the second wicket with Suresh Raina, who made a 34-ball half-century of his own, to steer Super Kings through a majority of the innings after Shane Watson had lost his off stump to Curran in the Powerplay.

ALSO READ: Raina’s return to form has made up for Watson’s struggles

But Du Plessis ramped up the intensity from the 15th over. He charged M Ashwin twice in that frame, driving him for four and six before unleashing more carnage on Andrew Tye in the next over, cracking the first three balls for two fours and a six. Another pair of sixes off Curran took him into the 90s, the latter of which was flat-batted over the leg side to take him one shot away from a century – he had added 46 off the next 17 balls after reaching 50. But that’s when the wheels came off, both for du Plessis and Super Kings.

The Curran and Shami death choke

The England allrounder made his presence felt at various stages of the Super Kings innings. It was Curran who made the initial breakthrough. Raina then became his second victim when he got too cute trying to flick a slower ball past short fine-leg that instead became a simple catch for Shami on the ring.

But his finest ball was the follow-up to du Plessis after a half-tracker had been belted over the leg side. Curran speared a yorker into the pads of du Plessis, who couldn’t get his bat down in time as the ball ricocheted off his toes on to the stumps, leaving the batsman bundled over on the ground.

Shami then built off Curran’s trio of wickets in the final over with a pair of his own. Ambati Rayudu clipped a full ball in the air to deep midwicket before Kedar Jadhav flailed over a yorker that cannoned into off stump for a golden duck. Despite having plenty of wickets in hand thanks to the platform set by Raina and du Plessis, Super Kings stumbled in the last two overs leaving a well below-par total for Kings XI to get.

Harbhajan’s Jekyll Hyde spell

During the Powerplay, it looked like Harbhajan Singh might be the reason for Super Kings to keep their fingers crossed for a Mumbai Indians loss to Kolkata Knight Riders later in the day to ensure a top-two finish. Harbhajan was pummelled by Rahul in his first two overs after opening with the new ball.

After two sixes by Rahul to round off the second over, the batsman showed nifty footwork to carve Harbhajan over the off and leg side for three straight boundaries to start the fourth. He then charged Harbhajan off the fourth ball to hit him inside out over extra cover for six, and then ended the over with another straight drive for six to bring up a 19-ball half-century as the score stood at 60 for no loss.

At that stage, Kings XI needed a very achievable 111 off 57 balls to make Super Kings sweat on the Mumbai result for a place in the top two.

That equation was 65 off 27 balls by the time Harbhajan was reintroduced in the 11th. Within four balls, he was on a hat-trick having claimed both Rahul and the far more sedate Chris Gayle. Rahul miscued a drive after charging down the pitch before Gayle flat-batted a pull to long-on. Harbhajan fetched a third in his next over as Mayank Agarwal pulled him to Jadeja on the leg-side rope. Having conceded 41 off his first two overs, he took 3 for 16 off his final two to at least stem the bleeding.

Pooran’s fiery cameo followed, in which he blasted three sixes in his 36 off 22 balls before Jadeja claimed him with seven needed for victory. Having taken three key wickets in the first innings, Curran appropriately finished off the chase with a boundary.

Article source: http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/content/story/1183284.html?CMP=OTC-RSS

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