As Chennai Super Kings started a spirited chase of 227 against Kings XI Punjab in the second qualifier of the Indian Premier League 2014, it was Suresh Raina who drew all the accolades and truly so. Former India opener Aakash Chopra called Raina a true T20 giant after the left-hander smashed 87 off 25 before being brilliantly run out by George Bailey.
Raina had come in at the fall of the first wicket in the second ball of the innings and sent shivers down the Punjab camp, getting stuck into Sandeep Sharma, Parvinder Awana and even Mitchell Johnson as Chennai raced away to 100 inside the powerplay overs, an all-time IPL record; 87 of those runs came from Raina's bat.
The Uttar Pradesh batsman also came within touching distance of the fastest ever IPL fifty but missed out by just one ball; he now has the second fastest fifty in the short history of the IPL, having taken 16 balls to get there.
Raina's 87 from 25 balls came at a strike rate of 348.00, the highest by any batsman in the IPL (with the minimum qualification being 50 runs).
Chasing a mammoth total in a virtual semi-final, the Super Kings were off to a dream start. They had managed 100 - the highest total by any side in the first six overs, obliterating Kochi Tuskers' 87 against Rajasthan Royals in 2011. And yet to lose by 24 runs, was unacceptable to captain MS Dhoni and coach Stephen Fleming, men used to wild successes.
So disheartened was Dhoni by CSK's capitulation after Raina's run out in the seventh over that he lashed out at his foreign stars and called them irresponsible for not being able to convert a sensational start into victory.
In fact KXIP skipper George Bailey admitted to some nervous moments as Raina went on the rampage and said he was scared that the left-handed batsman would undo all of Virender Sehwag's excellent work earlier last evening.
"Viru's knock was almost overshadowed by Suresh's innings. We have seen two extraordinary innings," said a relieved Bailey after his side had booked their first ever IPL final.
This was the first time since 2009 that Chennai Super Kings have not made it to the IPL final. They finished third in this edition of the tournament and have consistently made it to the knockout stages.