Not for nothing are Chennai Super Kings the most consistent side in the Indian Premier League. They have lifted the trophy twice after making the play-offs on six occasions.
And they did their reputation no harm at the Brabourne Stadium on Wednesday night, beating Mumbai Indians by seven wickets in the IPL-7 Eliminator to advance to Qualifier Two where they meet Kings XI Punjab at the Wankhede on Friday.
At one stage, the Chennai outfit seemed to be running away with the game with openers Dwayne Smith (24 runs) and Faf du Plessis (35) putting on 60 runs in only six overs, but off-spinner Harbhajan Singh brought the defending champions back into the contest, removing both of them in the seventh over.
Suresh Raina plays a shot during his match-winning innings against Mumbai Indians at the Brabourne Stadium on Wednesday. Pic/Suresh KK
Mumbai had a glimmer of hope when left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha got rid of Brendon McCullum (14) with the score on 87, but thereafter Suresh Raina (54 not out) and David Hussey (40 not out) put on a brilliant 89-run partnership to ensure there were no late jitters for MS Dhoni & Co.
At 132-3 at the end of the 15th over, MI would still have fancied a late fightback, but Hussey, who joined the side towards the latter half of the tournament struck three sixes in the very next over off Ojha to reduce the contest to a mere formality.
Earlier, it was not difficult to see why Dhoni didn’t battle an eyelid before putting MI in to bat after winning the toss.
Firstly, the visitors would have been wary about Mumbai’s ability to chase, especially, after their stupendous performance in the previous game against Rajasthan Royals. And secondly, the pitch presented a mystery to both sides, as this was the only IPL game this season being played at the venue.
But, MI proved there was nothing to worry about the strip, and that it was as good a belter as any seen throughout the tournament, managing 173-8.
It was important that the MI openers gave them a healthy start, and they stuck to the script with Michael Hussey (39 runs) and Lendl Simmons (67) putting on 76 in 9.4 overs. It was the perfect launch pad for the batsmen who followed, and although none of them went on to cross the half-century mark, MI kept themselves in the mix despite a collapse towards the closing stages of their innings.
Michael Hussey of Mumbai Indians plays a shot during the play off match against Chennai Superkings in Mumbai on Wednesday
MI had reached 140-2 at the end of the 16th over, but once Simmons fell after his brilliant knock, which was laced with five boundaries and four sixes, the others including Corey Anderson (20), Rohit Sharma (20), Kieron Pollard (14) flattered to deceive. The next four overs yielded only 33 runs and the momentum had clearly shifted CSK’s way.
The most that MI could extract from an over was when Simmons and Hussey hit pacer Mohit Sharma for 19 runs. Although Sharma emerged the most successful bowler on the night, taking 3-42, he was very expensive at 10.5 an over.