IPL 2021: MS Dhoni magic powers Chennai Super Kings to final

Captain blasts 18 from six balls to secure victory over Delhi Capitals after another fine innings from Ruturaj Gaikwad

While Ruturaj Gaikwad continues to prove that the future has already arrived for Chennai Super Kings, MS Dhoni showed there remains life in the old guard yet after seeing them through to the Indian Premier League final.

Chennai’s 40-year-old captain prompted delirium within the majority Chennai-supporting crowd at the Dubai International Stadium, with his late cameo against Delhi Capitals.

Dhoni hit 18 not out off six balls, including three fours in the final over off Tom Curran, to seal victory with four wickets and two balls left in the first qualifier on Sunday night chasing Delhi's score of 172-5.

It means Chennai will play in their ninth IPL final on Friday. Delhi have a second shot at a rematch in that fixture. They will play the winner of Monday’s eliminator between Royal Challengers Bangalore and Kolkata Knight Riders in Sharjah on Wednesday.

For all the theatre of Dhoni’s late salvo, it was again one of the babes among Chennai’s "Dad’s Army" of senior stars who laid the platform for the win.

Opener Gaikwad was still in primary school when both Dhoni and Robin Uthappa, who made a fine half-century in the run chase, played their first international matches for India.

It is he, though, who is stealing the limelight this season. In making 70 in the win over Delhi, Gaikwad passed 400 runs in the time since the competition restarted in UAE.

He has also become just the third Chennai player to amass more than 600 runs in a season, after Mike Hussey and Ambati Rayudu.

He might have fallen just before victory was sealed against Delhi, but his innings was the backbone of the chase, chiefly by way of his 110-run stand with Uthappa for the second wicket.

While the players had to compete against each other and big match nerves – with a place in the final within touching distance - there was another significant factor: the high humidity.

It had its most notable effect on Rishabh Pant, with the bat slipping from his grasp a number of times. On the first occasion, he managed to loft Shardul Thakur more than 80 metres for six.

Later, he nearly offered up a catch on the backward point boundary, just as his bat flew off in the direction of Richard Illingworth, the square leg umpire.

Despite the tough conditions, Delhi’s captain was still able to post a half-century, scurrying a two off the last ball of the innings to reach 51 not out and take his team to 172-5 from 20 overs.

That might have been a good deal more had Prithvi Shaw stayed for longer. The Delhi opener was in prime touch as he made 60 from 34 balls, before falling to Ravindra Jadeja.

Updated: October 10th 2021, 6:12 PM
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