Rising Pune Supergiant cruised into the Indian Premier League play-offs with a thoroughly one-sided nine-wicket victory over Kings XI Punjab in a do-or-die final group league match at Maharashtra Cricket Association's International Stadium, Pune, on Sunday. It was complete domination by the home team, which first bundled out Kings XI Punjab for a paltry 73 and then knocked off the runs in only 12 overs to finish second in the eight-team table with 18 points. Young Rahul Tripathi blasted 28 off 20 balls to make a mockery of the chase in an encounter which turned out to be an anti-climax of sorts.
It was the ninth time in 10 seasons of the IPL that a team involving Mahendra Singh Dhoni made it to the final four stage.
In the first eight seasons with the Chennai Super Kings, Dhoni was a part of the last four on all occasions.
The only other player to achieve this feat in 10 seasons is Suresh Raina (CSK and Gujarat Lions). It was only last season that a team involving the former India skipper couldn't make it to the last four. The victory also gives Supergiant, the cushion of two shots at a place in the final.
They will be playing Mumbai Indians in Qualifier 1 while Sunrisers Hyderabad (3rd with 17 points) will meet Kolkata Knight Riders (4th with 16 points) in the Eliminator.
The match as a contest was over by the time Kings XI Punjab skipper Glenn Maxwell (0) got out with the scoreboard reading 32 for five.
The chase was a mere formality with Tripathi blasting the three Sharmas -- Mohit, Ishant and Sandeep -- for four boundaries before hitting a six over deep mid-wicket off Rahul Tewatia.
The run-rate pressure was non-existent which made it easier for Ajinkya Rahane (34 not out) and skipper Steve Smith (15 not out) to knock off the runs after Tripathi got out. Rahane finished the match with a six off Maxwell.
Put into bat, Kings XI Punjab put up their worst batting performance of the season when it mattered the most.
After the high of scoring 230 against Mumbai Indians in the last game, their campaign hit the worst note as it became a virtual no-show.
They were all but out of the game after being shot out in only 15.5 overs. Axar Patel was the top-scorer with 22 runs while Wriddhiman Saha's 13 was the next best.
Shardul Thakur (3/19 in 4 overs) was the pick of the bowlers and he got fantastic support from Jaydev Unadkat (2/12 in 3 overs), Adam Zampa (2/22 in 3.5 overs) and Dan Cristian (2/10 in 2 overs).
Even Ben Stokes (0/10 in 3 overs) looked dangerous as he beat the bat a number of times.
Martin Guptill (0) uppishly drove to Manoj Tiwary at short cover off the very first delivery from Unadkat.
Shaun Marsh (13) hit a couple of boundaries before he failed to clear Steve Smith at mid-off. He didn't fully commit to the drive and failed to get the elevation.
Unadkat was again in the game when his direct throw found Eoin Morgan (4) short of his crease.
Rahul Tewatia (4) hit a square drive and then mistimed a pull from Shardul Thakur. Tewatia, to his horror, found Unadkat stationed at short fine leg. Unadkat dived full stretch to take the catch.
Within a couple of deliveries, Glenn Maxwell flicked straight to Ajinkya Rahane at the deep square leg boundary.
At 32 for 5, it was all over for the Kings XI as none of the batsmen showed any stomach for a fight.
Wriddhiman had opened the batting and from the other end, saw wickets falling like ninepins. Finally, he was out trying to steer Cristian with Dhoni taking a regulation catch.
It was a formality as Zampa polished off the tail with 25 deliveries remaining unconsumed.