A grimacing MS Dhoni pulled off a near impossible win for Chennai Super Kings before Kings XI Punjab scraped through with a dramatic four-run victory in the Indian Premier League in Mohali on Sunday.
Dhoni, battling back pain, took the match into the last over with a blistering 79 off 44 balls. However, his valiant effort did not prove to be enough as CSK ended at 193 for five in response to KXIP’s 197 for seven at the PCA Stadium.
The Super Kings needed as many as 76 off the last 30 balls and Dhoni got his team almost over the line with an innings comprising six fours and five sixes.
With 17 needing off the final over, pacer Mohit Sharma did the job for KXIP, who recorded their second win in three games this season. It was the first loss of the season for the Dhoni-led team.
Dhoni’s exhibition of powerful hitting followed the Chris Gayle show. The Jamaican showed that he was far from being a spent force as his second fastest fifty in the IPL helped KXIP put up a healthy total.
The 38-year-old, who twice went unsold at the auction before being picked up by KXIP for his base price, hammered 66 off 33 balls. The other contributions came from the in-form KL Rahul (37 off 22), Mayank Agarwal (30 off 19) and Karun Nair (29 off 17).
Gayle weaved a 96-run opening partnership alongside Rahul setting up the platform for a big score.
The West Indies raced to his half-century off 22 balls, a shade slower than his 17 ball fifty against Pune in 2013.
For CSK , Shardul Thakur and Imran Tahir picked up two scalps each while Harbhajan Singh, Shane Watson and Dwayne Bravo got a wicket each.
Harbhajan gave Chennai the first breakthrough when Rahul was caught by Dwayne Bravo, but by then KXIP were comfortably placed and reached 100 in just 8.4 overs.
Two overs later Gayle too departed, handing over a simple catch to Imran Tahir at short fine leg off Shane Watson’s bowling.
Tahir dealt a double blow in innings’ 16th over removing a set Agarwal and Aaron Finch, who was out for a first-ball duck for the second game in a row.
Yuvraj Singh (20 off 13), who struggled in the first two games, seemed to get into his groove before Thakur had him caught behind off a short ball.
The Punjab openers made their intentions clear right from the first over when Rahul dispatched medium pacer Deepak Chahar for two boundaries.
The second and third overs of the innings bowled by Harbhajan and Chahar somewhat contained the two openers, but the off-spinner was severely punished in his second over.
After a boundary, Gayle hit Harbhajan for a towering six over long off which was followed by two stylish boundaries from Rahul.
The first bowling change introduced by Dhoni to bring in Shradul Thakur did not help as Punjab batsmen continued their blistering strikes. The medium pacer was greeted by two boundaries by the West Indian while Rahul too hit a four of him.
Punjab raced to 50 in just 30 balls and there was no respite in sight for Dhoni’s bowlers.