A batting masterclass from M Vijay and a catalogue of errors from Delhi Daredevils ensured that a well-supported Chennai Super Kings set up an intriguing final against Kolkata Knight Riders.
The Daredevils made a series of odd choices, and each one backfired spectacularly in a qualifier game that was dominated by the Super Kings to the extent that the eventual margin of victory was an emphatic 86 runs.
From the word go, Vijay timed the ball sweetly, picking off the quick bowlers at will through off side and on. The manner in which he took deliveries from outside the off stump and whipped them through the on side showed how well he was seeing the ball.
The spinners were treated with utmost contempt, and even the fact that Mike Hussey struggled for fluency did little to slow down the Super Kings.
When Hussey, whose 20 did not even come at a run-a-ball, was replaced by Suresh Raina, the pace picked up. As Raina brought brute force to the proceedings, Vijay provided constant reminders of his undeniable talent. Varun Aaron was brutally dispatched, Virender Sehwag's solitary over cost 21 and IPL debutant Sunny Gupta could not be bowled for a fourth over after his first three cost 47.
As Vijay became the only Indian to score two hundreds in the IPL, cameos from Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Dwayne Bravo ensured that the Super Kings ended on a massive 222 for 5. Vijay, who was visibly tiring towards the end of his 58-ball 113, walked off to a rousing ovation, and the game was as good as in the bag.
When Sehwag won the toss and chose to field, you had to wonder if this was the wisest thing to do in a crunch game. After all, the pressure of the scoreboard would only add to the difficulty of batting second in case the pitch slowed down significantly. (Related read: What worked for Chennai, what did not for Delhi)
When Sehwag revealed that Delhi were without Morne Morkel, their standout bowler, and Irfan Pathan, who did not recover from a split webbing in his right hand, the decision to field made sense, to a point.
While there was some suggestion that Morkel was under the weather, Mahela Jayawardene, who was mic-ed up, explained that the think tank were forced to leave Morkel out as they needed an allrounder to replace Pathan.
While Andre Russell is a player of immense promise, the decision to leave Morkel out was always going to be fraught with danger. Add to this the fact that Delhi decided to hand Gupta, the offspinner who plays for Tamil Nadu in the Ranji trophy, his first IPL cap, and the extent of confusion within the Dehi ranks became obvious.
But the problems did not end merely with selection. In pursuit of 223, the Daredevils chose to open with David Warner and Mahela Jayawardene, dropping Sehwag down to No. 3. When Warner drilled one to mid-off to be well caught by the man of the moment, Vijay, and Sehwag launched into an ambitious pull to a ball well outside the off stump to be caught in the deep, the chase was dead in the water.
Jayawardene kept hopes alive with a well-paced 55, but with no company of note, the Daredevils slumped to 136 all out. The Super Kings were into their fourth IPL final, and all of a sudden, the possibility of defending their title seemed anything but remote.