IPL 2021: Dhoni turns the clock back as CSK reach the final

Chennai Super Kings beat the Delhi Capitals by four wickets and booked their place in the finals on Friday.

IPL 2021: Dhoni turns the clock back as CSK reach the final

By Vadiraj Kanakagiri

The game had gone to the final over. Thirteen runs needed off five deliveries. Ms Dhoni was on strike. Not many believed he could pull this off. Now they might say they did. But at the time, with his form in the tournament and everything, many would've even been criticising him for coming in ahead of Jadeja. But MS had brought his old self to the crease. Once he did that, it was all too easy for him. Tom Curran seemed like a net bowler. He hit three consecutive boundaries, with a wide in between. He walked calmly to shake hands with the opposition. He did it how he used to.

Dhoni won the toss in an all-important encounter and he decided to bat second. It was like he started writing his script from there itself. Shikhar Dhawan got out early on 7 to a Hazlewood like delivery from the man himself. But by the time Gabbar got out, Prithvi Shaw had started exploding and the score was already on 33. Prithvi Shaw continued on in beast mode and thrashed the bowlers all around the park. He stole seventeen off Chahar in the third and smashed a couple of sixes in the fifth over and made his intent pretty clear from the outset.

Coming in at No.3 Shreyas Iyer struggled to get going. Batting in the powerplay because of the early wicket, Iyer found it hard to hit it through the inner ring. He made 1 off 8 deliveries before he skied one in the air off a leading edge giving Hazlewood his second wicket. In a surprise move, Axar Patel was sent in at No.4, to have some depth in the batting order at the death. Axar knocked the ball around for singles for about 11 deliveries where he scored 10 but got out on his very first attempt at a big shot.

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Even with wickets tumbling at the other end, Shaw was batting wisely by aggressively. His boundary scoring intent continued and the scoreboard moved quickly. But right after Axar's wicket, he tried to release pressure by going over long-off, but instead hit one straight into the hands of Faf. And as we know, he's the last person that you want to hit in the air. By this point, the innings was dominated fully by Shaw with the bat, as he scored 60 out of the 80 that was on the board.

Delhi needed a partnership as they didn't have many left at 80 for 4 in 10. Pant and Hetmyer joined forces at the wicket and decided to take the game deep. And they did it successfully. Hetmyer was aggressive of the two and took extra risks every now and then. Pant was playing it safe, but when he got one in his slot, he too didn't mind going big. They put on 83 for the 6th wicket and put Delhi back in the driver's seat. Hetmyer got out on the penultimate over and Pant stayed there till the end and completed his half-century on the last ball of the innings. Pant refused to take singles with Curran at the other end, which proved to be costly in the end, with Tom Curran is a proven hitter too.

Chasing a pretty big score, CSK were halted very early in the first over, with Faf getting cleaned up by his countryman Anrich Nortje. In the team in place of Raina, Robin Uthappa was sent in at 3. It was an eyebrow-raising move as Uthappa had got out early in the previous two games. But Dhoni and Uthappa knew something else we didn't. Robin creamed a cover drive off his very first delivery and made fans remember the guy who used to top the run charts for fun when he was at KKR. He and Ruturaj put on a massive stand of a whopping 110 for the second wicket, almost taking the wind out of the Delhi side. 

Not too aggressive, not too defensive, both played sensibly and moved the score at a brisk rate. When both the batters looked like they'd take the game away completely, Delhi, especially Iyer brought the game in balance by his sheer brilliance in the field. First, he ended that big partnership by taking an acrobatic catch on the boundary off a Robin big hit at long-on. Shardul Thakur was sent in at a pinch hitter, and couldn't even pinch a run as he got out first ball going for a big one. Next up was Rayudu. The veteran was run out to another amazing piece of fielding by Iyer, this time in the form of a throw. Running in from long-on, Iyer fired one in near the stumps and KG Rabada whipped the bails off after gathering the ball amazingly to find Rayudu short of his crease, at least by a yard.

With three quick wickets, Delhi were truly back in the game, if not bossing it. But they haven't yet removed Ruturaj. Moeen Ali joined Gaikwad and they took the game till the end. After another impressive inning, Gaikwad finally got out in the penultimate over on 70 and walked MSD in yet another crunch situation. This time ahead of in form Ravindra Jadeja. He smacked a six off his very second delivery and brought the equation down to 13 needed off the last. 

Pant had a big decision to make on whom he should go with the last over. On one hand, he had the ever-reliable KG Rabada who had gone for some in this innings. On the other hand, he had Tom Curran, who had bowled well in this game and had picked two but was playing his first game of this leg. He went with the guy who was having a good day. And it looked like a masterstroke when he removed Moeen Ali on the first delivery off the last over. Pant and Delhi weren't too much over the moon yet, even with 13 needed off 5, because MS was back on strike.

The reason MSD is a most successful finisher is because, apart from his power to clear the boundary, of his ability to read the bowler's mind quickly and always be one step ahead. He sets up for the shot even before the delivery is bowled and if it is what he had guessed, you can fetch the ball from the crowd, if he got it wrong, he still has the ability to make the most out of that ball.

Expecting a slower one, Dhoni was waiting on the back foot. Curran bowled a back of the hand slower one outside off; Dhoni smashed the leather off it, as the ball raced to the boundary to the right of sweeper cover. Adjusting his length, Curran bowled a full one outside off and Dhoni went after it, but to the bowler's and Delhi's dismay, the ball took the inside edge and rolled away towards the fine leg boundary. The confidence of the bowler was already shattered. It looked all too easy now for Dhoni as just 5 were needed off 3. Trying another fuller one, Curran bowled one wide outside the tram line. The equation was 4 off 3. And Rishab had a gut-wrenching look on his face. The game was already lost. Curran ran in and bowled a short one, but it didn't bother MS too much at this moment. He had so much time that he placed it perfectly in the gap, wide of deep mid-wicket.

He once again made it look so easy. He had brought his old self back. We were young again for a moment. And Delhi are left to fight it all over again on Wednesday.

Brief Scores: Delhi Capitals 172/5 in 20 overs (Prithvi Shaw 60, Rishabh Pant 51*, Shimron Hetmyer 37; Josh Hazlewood 2-29) lost to Chennai Super Kings 173/6 in 20 overs (Ruturaj Gaikwad 70, Robin Uthappa 63; Tom Curran 3-29) by 4 wickets.