The hallmark of Chennai Super Kings has been their ability to find a hero for every situation. On a day when the in-form Michael Hussey and Suresh Raina didn't come into their own, it was Mahendra Singh Dhoni's turn to take centre-stage in grand style, as he has done often. A blistering, unbeaten 35-ball 58 helped Chennai reach 168 for 4 before Delhi Daredevils capsized midway through the chase to finish on 135 for 9. That meant Chennai signed off in front of their home fans at the MA Chidambaram Stadium on Tuesday (May 14) with a win that took them to the top of the Pepsi Indian Premier League 2013 standings.
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Kings XI Punjab's win over Royal Challengers Bangalore meant Chennai were through to the playoffs even before the match began. But given the stiff competition for the top two slots, there was no let-up in intensity. Murali Vijay (31) and Hussey (26) came out all guns blazing, putting on 61 for the opening wicket to set the tone for the innings. Vijay looked particularly aggressive, using his feet against the spinners at will, before being run out courtesy a direct hit from point by Ben Rohrer in the eighth over.
That appeared to have a bearing on Hussey, who mistimed a pull to Virender Sehwag at short fine-leg soon after, as Chennai lost a bit of momentum. When Raina drove one into the hands of David Warner in the next over, they found themselves in a tricky situation at 74 for 3 in the 12th over. Enter Dhoni and the transformation gathered momentum. He was cautious to begin with, but soon upped the ante in his trademark style. He took a liking for Ashish Nehra and Siddharth Kaul, who conceded 74 off eight overs between them.
Along the way, Dhoni found an ally in Ravindra Jadeja (24), with whom he shared a 57-run stand before the final onslaught as Chennai smashed 98 off the last ten overs.
For Delhi to even come close, they needed the top-order led by Sehwag to fire, or at least build two substantial partnerships to make a late charge. Those hopes were quelled by the impressive Mohit Sharma who dismissed Sehwag for a duck off the second delivery of the innings, and from there on, Delhi were in a freefall.
Unmukt Chand played across the line to a slower delivery, Johan Botha and Kedhar Jadhav were beaten for pace trying to pull, while Rohrer flicked one to square-leg. At 63 for 5, the writing was on the wall. Warner, fighting the oppressive heat and humidity, kept them in the hunt with a few attacking strokes on the way to 44 off 37 balls, but that was only cosmetic as Delhi fell short by 33 runs in the end.