M.S. Dhoni’s Chennai Super Kings (CSK) reached a record 10th IPL final in 14 seasons after a 15-run win over Gujarat Titans (GT) in Qualifier 1 at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium on Tuesday.
To their credit, the Titans fought hard. But as so many have found before them, the game at Chepauk ultimately seemed to bend itself around the man wearing the No. 7 yellow jersey, who is now just a breath away from a fifth IPL title. GT will face the winner of the Eliminator in Qualifier 2 on May 26.
The Titans lost Wriddhiman Saha to Deepak Chahar (2 for 29) early in the 173-run chase. Hardik Pandya came up at three but holed out at backward point off Maheesh Theekshana in the last over of the PowerPlay. Dhoni had put an extra fielder just a ball prior, to pack the off side and force batters to go aerial.
Dasun Shanaka was promoted to target Theekshana, which he did. But Theekshana had the last laugh when he caught his Sri Lankan skipper in the 11th over, trying to reverse sweep Ravindra Jadeja (2 for 18).
Meanwhile, Shubman Gill looked like he was batting on a different pitch, but with Jadeja’s dismissal of David Miller making it 85 needed off 42, Gill had to go after the bowling. Dhoni brought Chahar back into the attack in the 14th over, and he got Gill with a slower short ball. Vijay Shankar and Rashid Khan raised hopes, but Ruturaj Gaikwad’s diving catch at deep midwicket sent Shankar back and sealed GT’s fate.
Earlier, bowling first, GT’s Darshan Nalkande, replacing Yash Dayal, struck in his first over, but it was called a no-ball. Gaikwad, batting on 2 off 7, celebrated the reprieve with two back-to-back boundaries. The CSK openers took 22 off Nalkande’s first two overs, forcing Hardik to turn to Rashid (1 for 37) and Noor Ahmad for an over each inside the first six overs.
Gaikwad drove the full-length balls from Rashid to the fence before flaying a cut behind point in Mohit Sharma’s first over, the ninth of the innings. Mohit had his revenge in his next over when Gaikwad miscued a pull to be caught on 60. Shivam Dube’s move up to No. 3 did not pay off, as he was clean bowled by a googly from Noor for just one run.
The slowness of the pitch made strokeplay difficult, and Devon Conway was eventually caught for a laborious 34-ball 40. But Jadeja and Moeen Ali’s cameos helped the Super Kings set up a target that eventually helped them become the first team to qualify for the final.