South African batsman Faf du Plessis said Chennai Super Kings teammate Suresh Raina's record-breaking hundred, an unbeaten 109 off 62 balls in the Champions League Twenty20 final vs Kolkata Knight Roders was the best T20 knock he has seen in his illustrious career.
Du Plessis, a hard-hitting middle-order batsman and captain of South Africa's T20 International side, has played several blazing innings himself. He has scores of 126, 121 and 96 in his last three ODI innings and is considered one of the fierce strokemakers in the modern game. To impress a man of du Plessis' accomplishments would have needed a special effort and Raina's ton, the first by an Indian in the Champions League Twenty20 was just that.
Chasing 181 in the final against IPL champions Kolkata Knight Riders on Saturday, Raina, CSK's most successful batsman, helped his team across the line without seeming to break a sweat. The KKR attack, depleted without Sunil Narine, had no answers to Raina's booming drives and wilted under the pressure of eight sixes from the left-hander's blade. (Gautam Gambhir Defiant in Defeat)
Many, including du Plessis, who was due in at the fall of the fourth wicket, were left stunned.
"Oh, cometh the hour, cometh the man - Suresh. It's probably the best T20 knock I have seen in my career. He has played some fantastic knocks, but to bat like that in a final is phenomenal. He is a big-match player and he has delivered for us time and again," du Plessis told CLT20.com.
Raina has been the backbone of the Super Kings' phenomenal success over the better half of the last decade. The two IPL titles and now the two CLT20 trophies are in large measures due to the Uttar Pradesh batsman's sensational efforts. Little wonder then, that his teammates, from international superstars to domestic rookies are in complete awe.
This was no mean feat. Chennai were in the midst of a dry run and they were up against a team that was on a high with its historic run. CSK had not won a single tournament since 2011 and the Knight Riders had won 14 games on the trot; they seemed invincible despite some visible frailties. Du Plessis, therefore, was an elated man after the triumph Sunday night.
"Yes, it's been amazing. When we got together at the start of this tournament, we said we have to get over the line. We have been a very consistent side over the last seven years but now we have reached a stage where consistency doesn't mean much to us," du Plessis told the official website of the CLT20. "We want to win trophies. We have been in the semis and the finals in the last three years but haven't won a trophy. So, we were really driven to end that dry spell. We were really motivated."
Chennai Super Kings are now the only side to have won both the IPL and CLT20 twice. The side, studded with India heavyweights and international superstars, will be expected to clinch greater highs in the years to come.