Kolkata: It's not for nothing that Chennai Super Kings have been the most successful side in the short history of the IPL. They have mastered the art of peaking at the right time, and seem to be able to pull off victory when all seems lost. That quality was in evidence once again in a nail-biting last-ball thriller, courtesy Dwayne Bravo's six off Rajat Bhatia, against Kolkata Knight Riders that took Chennai to a five-wicket victory and kept their qualification hopes alive.
When the match began, a victory didn't look likely for Chennai.
Gautam Gambhir continued his superb run, getting the Knight Riders off to a quick start, and Brendon McCullum too found his timing early.
With batsmen firing at both ends, Mahendra Singh Dhoni's decision to put Kolkata in appeared to be going horribly wrong. Both openers looked comfortable and after 11 overs, Kolkata were superbly placed at 96 for no loss. That was when their Achilles heel - a misfiring middle-order - resurfaced.
The opening stand was broken when McCullum was run out after a mix-up to depart for 37, and the captain himself followed five balls later, castled by Shadab Jakati for a fluent 62 off 43 balls.
The last 9 overs yielded only 62 runs while 6 wickets fell and Kolkata ended up with 158 for 6 after looking good for a total in excess of 180. It wasn't the first time they had squandered a good start in the tournament, and though they had gotten away earlier, this time they had no such luck.
Chennai's opening pair of Michael Hussey and Murali Vijay bettered their Kolkata counterparts, with runs coming thick and fast.
After five overs, Chennai had scored 44 and after ten overs, the score had rocketed to 96 without loss.
Chennai appeared headed for a comfortable victory when Sunil Narine struck, getting rid of both Hussey (56 off 39) and Vijay (36 off 25) in the 11th over to restore some parity.
When Suresh Raina was run out three overs later, Chennai faced a wobble similar to Kolkata's earlier in the evening.
A chase that had looked a stroll turned challenging and it came down to 27 off 2 overs.
Dhoni then exploded like only he can, smashing Marchant de Lange for 18 runs in the penultimate over, before adding another twist by falling to Bhatia in the final over.
It all came down to Bravo facing the last ball with 5 needed. Bhatia cracked under the pressure with a full toss that was hit high, but long enough to sail over wide long-on, keeping the defending champions alive by the narrowest of margins