If there's one thing the last four seasons of the IPL have taught us, it is that Chennai Super Kings can never be counted out till they are actually out. That lesson was reinforced emphatically in the Eliminator between the defending champions and Mumbai Indians in Bangalore. The Chennai batting finally came good, and once 187 runs were put on the board, Mumbai Indians were always in line for a thumping. The end result, a 38-run win for Chennai.
Chennai's win was down to a team effort, but even then, it's possible for one man to steal the show and that's what MS Dhoni did. In an innings that had it all - a helicopter shot, a six that crashed into the roof, and crucial runs when his team needed them most - Dhoni took Mumbai's bowling apart. He ended with an unbeaten 51 off just 20 balls, and had excellent company in Dwayne Bravo who finished 33 not out off 14. Bravo matched Dhoni shot for shot and, along the way, played the shot of the match, reaching out for a delivery well outside off and connecting with the ball while practically balancing himself on one leg.
The two of them were involved in a manic 73 run stand that came off just 29 balls. The platform, however, had been set up Subraminam Badrinath and Michael Hussey. Badrinath and Hussey got together after Dhawal Kulkarni snared Murali Vijay and Suresh Raina off successive balls in the second over to give Mumbai a dream start. Hussey took nine balls to get off the mark, but Badrinath was on a roll from the beginning. The two took Chennai from two down for next to nothing on the board to 95 in the 14th over. They fell close to one another, but that only meant better things for Chennai, because Dhoni and Bravo came together. And once the assault was over in a haze of sixes and fours, Chennai had reached an imposing 187 for five. Dhoni and Bravo had put together 73 runs in under five overs.
Mumbai's innings got off to a quick start, but ran into barriers straightaway, starting with Sachin Tendulkar running himself out to keep Dwayne Smith in. Smith had charged down the wicket for a non-existent single, and with both batsmen at the same end, Tendulkar stepped out of his crease before the stumps were broken at the bowler's end. The openers had put on 47 runs in five overs, but after that Mumbai fell apart. They couldn't string together any partnership of note, and no batsman apart from Smith crossed 20. Mumbai ended well short of the target at 149 for nine.
Chennai had come back from the dead to make the play-offs, and once there, produced a most dominant performance. A berth in the Champions League Twenty20 has been sealed. Along with that, there's a date with Delhi Daredevils lined up as well as dreams of a hat-trick of IPL titles.