Kings XI Punjab punch ticket for first IPL final

Virender Sehwag tallied 122 runs and beat Chennai Super Kings to within an inch of submission at Wankhede Stadium as Kings Xi Punjab will now meet Kolkata Knight Riders in the IPL final on Sunday.
Virender Sehwag tallied 122 runs for Kings XI Punjab in a play-off victory over Chennai Super Kings on Friday night. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
Virender Sehwag tallied 122 runs for Kings XI Punjab in a play-off victory over Chennai Super Kings on Friday night. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National

Punjab 226/6 (20 ov) Chennai 202/7 (20 ov)

Toss Chennai, who chose to field

Punjab Sehwag 122, Miller 38, Vohra 34; Nehra 2-51

Chennai Raina 87, Dhoni 42, Jadeja 27; Awana 2-59

Man of the match Virender Sehwag (Punjab)

MUMBAI // Virender Sehwag beat Chennai Super Kings to within an inch of submission at Wankhede Stadium on a raucous Friday night.

Suresh Raina then threatened to take that inch and sprint a mile before two crucial run outs ensured that Kings XI Punjab successfully defended their 226 for six and reached the final of the Pepsi IPL 2014 where Kolkata Knight Riders await them.

Chennai fell short by 24 but, in reality, the chase was dead in the water a long way from home.

The two dominant batting displays were classic examples of batsmen leaving all baggage back in their dugouts and setting about their task with clarity of mind and singularity of purpose.

Sehwag and Raina watched the ball closely out of the bowler’s hand, trusted the pitch to be their ally and allowed their raw batting instincts to take over.

It was Sehwag who set the pace in the first half, showing no mercy against quick and slow bowlers alike. If you ignored the glasses perched on the bridge of his nose, this was Sehwag of the early 2000s, where no field setting was clever enough and no bowler his equal.

The glide to vacant third man, the on-the-rise drive over mid-off, the rasping cut in front of point, the glide past the slip cordon, not one of Sehwag’s best shots remained unused as the quick bowlers were treated with disdain.

Spinners suffered equally, with Sehwag clearing his front leg and launching the ball over the bowler’s head, the direction of turn determining whether it was long-on or long-off that had to fetch the ball.

Sehwag’s half-century came off the 21st ball he faced, a gentle stroll down the wicket for a single taking him to the landmark. With the field spread, Sehwag slowed down, to the extent that his second 50 took 34 balls and when the century was raised he pointed his bat to the Punjab camp.

Sehwag eventually fell in the 19th over, his 122 coming off 58 balls with 12 fours and eight sixes, but by then Punjab had 211 on the board. All through his knock, Sehwag had put the bowlers to the sword, but he did so with the cheekiest of grins on his face, robbing the assault of any malice, giving the largely neutral crowd a batting feast of great beauty.

Even with a quiet finish, where only 15 runs came from the final two overs, Punjab had more runs on the board than had ever been chased in a Twenty20 match of any significance.

A target of 170 would have been a stroll and 190 might have put Chennai in two minds, but with 227 the target, there was no doubt about what was needed.

Stephen Fleming, Chennai’s coach, had spoken days earlier about the difficulty of bottling fearlessness and sipping when needed, but Punjab’s score had removed all tentativeness.

Raina showed the way from the moment he walked out to bat, after just three balls of the innings after Faf du Plessis had failed, and batted in a manner that suggested that Chennai truly believed they were destined for their fifth IPL final, irrespective of how hard Punjab had made it for them.

Raina tickled a legside delivery from Mitchell Johnson past the wicketkeeper to get going and then waded into Sandeep Sharma. A couple of clinical lofts over mid-off were followed by a trademark hoick over midwicket and a piercing drive past point. Sandeep’s over, the second of the innings, cost 19, but Raina then took 20 off Johnson, including a punishing six off a short ball, which brought up a 15-ball half-century.

Parvinder Awana, handed the ball for the final over of the PowerPlay, then returned the most expensive over of the match, being hammered for 33 including a no-ball that was sent packing.

At the end of six overs, Chennai were an even 100 – comfortably the tallest score of any IPL PowerPlay – with Raina having made 87 of those.

The strategic time out, taken at the most inopportune moment for Chennai immediately after the PowerPlay, was followed by a hesitant single that ended Raina’s bull run. Defending towards cover, Brendon McCullum called and ran, and Raina, not initially convinced that the quick single was on, was caught short by a tumbling pick up and direct hit from George Bailey.

Of the 25 balls Raina had faced for his 87, 18 had gone to the fence or over.

Even when Raina was dismissed, completely against the run of play, Chennai had their noses ahead, a further 127 needed from 83 balls at a relatively straightforward asking rate of nine per over.

McCullum, who was anything but convincing, with the run out involving Raina clearly playing on his mind, took a risk on a Glenn Maxwell misfield, but a strong throw and a smart bit of keeping from Wriddhiman Saha resulted in the second run out of the chase.

Ravindra Jadeja, promoted to No. 5, sliced his way to 27, but it was down to David Hussey to shepherd the chase. When he dragged Awana to short midwicket, Chennai were 142 for six and the game was as good as gone. Mahendra Singh Dhoni put on a brave face, clouting 42, but this only flattered the margin as Chennai ended on 202 for seven, and Punjab won by 24 runs.

Anand Vasu is the executive editor of Wisden India. For more on IPL, visit www.wisdenindia.com.

sports@thenational.ae

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Published: May 30, 2014 04:00 AM

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