Before the start of the match in Mumbai last night, any team from the trio of KXIP, KKR and CSK had the possibility of winning the IPL 2014 and therefore, it was an interesting scenario of a team winning the IPL the first time, or another team repeating their one victory earlier and finally the possibility of CSK winning IPL for the third time. With CSK’s honorable exit against KXIP, only the first two possibilities remain. In an absorbing contest last night in Mumbai’s jam-packed Wankhede stadium, CSK came close but not quite. For long time to come, cricket fans will remember yesterday’s match more for a scorching Sehwag century and an out-of-the-world batting performance from an absolutely stunning Suresh Raina. The two superlative Indians together accounted for 50% of the total runs scored and their tall stature in the match made some of world’s best known batsmen look like pygmies. Literally no one noticed the presence of Maxwell, Bailey, Smith, McCullum, du Plessis and Hussey. The only exception was David Miller, who matched Sehwag to an extent. In the end however, the score of 226 proved to be too good and KXIP walked into their first ever IPL final to take on KKR for the fourth and the last time this season.
Dhoni’s decision about fielding first after the toss didn’t work against the powerful Punjab batting. But it wasn’t Maxwell or Miller, the two batsmen who have changed KXIP’s fate this season by their resounding batting performances. Instead, CSK was up against the home-grown wonder of Virender Sehwag. Every bowler knows that, on his day, Sehwag can cause merciless butchering. And Saturday was Sehwag’s day as he seemed to have regained his old form. First of all he had a great support from Manan Vohra as the two of them put up a 110-run opening stand. Maxwell came next and departed after making 13 off 6 balls. But Miller and Sehwag kept hunting at will, and treated CSK bowling with disdain. Sehwag finally got out for 122 in the 19th over but by that time KXIP had reached 211/3. Sehwag’s 58-ball knock was studded with 12 fours and 8 sixes. But for a bit of sluggishness in the last 11 balls, KXIP could have scored much more.
CSK began ominously with du Plessis getting out for a duck in the first over. But Suresh Raina joined Smith without a crease on his forehead. He began by hitting a boundary off the first ball he faced and took 18 off the next over by Sandeep Sharma. Awana’s next over went for 9 runs and Raina had gone up to 31 off 10 balls. When Bailey brought back Mitchell Johnson, Raina struck the Australian for a four and 2 sixes. And then he completed his 16-ball 50 with a huge six, while Smith was bowled in that over after facing 11 balls to make it 67/2 for CSK. Amazingly out of 67, Smith contributed just 7 runs to Raina’s 55. Brendon McCullum, who joined Raina next, watched in awe as Raina hammered 33 off the next over from Parwinder Awana. Every hit was authoritative and superbly controlled and Raina avoided the risky shots in taking the bull by its horns. There was panic in the KXIP camp as a CSK victory loomed ahead in the horizon. Bailey didn’t know what to do since Raina was literally unstoppable. His 25-ball 87 with 12 fours and 6 sixes made Sehwag’s 58-ball 122 look like a routine test-match century. Then luck came KXIP’s way as the big-hitting McCullum ironically wanted to yield the strike to Raina in acknowledgement to his firing form. On a defensive stroke to the cover, where Bailey was stationed, Raina and McCullum hesitantly set off for a single and the split-second delay caused Raina’s fall as Bailey broke the wickets with a great direct throw. It was a loss that CSK rued since Raina was able to create a real possibility of a CSK win. He had brought down the asking rate substantially and with wickets in hand; it was still possible to challenge KXIP after his departure.
But that didn’t happen. Dhoni possibly made a tactical error by sending Jadeja ahead of himself. But Jadeja is no Raina and from boundaries and sixes, the scoring pattern changed to ones and twos. The KXIP bowlers mounted pressure and disallowed boundaries or sixes and the required rate started going up. Then wickets began to fall too. First McCullum was run out and then Jadeja holed out to Awana with Mitchell Johnson latching on to a fine catch. Hussy was out next and suddenly all the good work done by Raina was nullified. Dhoni had Ashwin for company but the two couldn’t make any dent. With the fight gone out of CSK’s arsenal, KXIP smoothly inched to their first passage in the IPL final.