Faf du Plessis scored 55 as the Chennai Super Kings won by seven wickets against the Kings XI Punjab on Saturday to wrap up top spot in the IPL standings.
Du Plessis has made regular contributions in this year’s tournament, but somewhat surprisingly he passed 50 for the first time, and it proved invaluable as he helped confirm his side’s spot in the qualifier.
The Rajasthan Royals were the second side to book their spot in the playoffs, as they beat the Kolkata Knight Riders in the later game by nine runs in Mumbai.
The Kings XI Punjab, already the wooden spoon holders despite reaching last year’s final, chose to bat first, but it was a familiar sight for George Bailey’s side, as they lost key wickets at an early stage. Wriddhiman Saha was the first to go for 15, and that proved to be the highest score from the top six.
Man of the Match Pawan Negi and the joint-second highest wicket-taker in the tournament Ashish Nehra ripped through the top order. David Miller could only muster 11, while cameos from Axar Patel and Rishi Dhawan restored some pride to the Kings XI innings as they finished on 130-7.
CSK were dealt early blows in their chase, as veteran Michael Hussey – playing his first game of the tournament – departed for one, and Brendon McCullum only scored six before he was bowled by Beuran Hendricks.
Du Plessis and Suresh Raina took over from there with a 92-run stand, all but killing off the contest. Du Plessis walked back for a brilliant 55, but MS Dhoni finished off the job with international teammate Raina, as the side reached the target with just over three overs remaining.
Shane Watson meanwhile was the hero in the Royals victory over KKR, as he struck 104 to prove that handing the captaincy over to Steve Smith was a wise move. Ajinkya Rahane scored 37 in their 80-run stand, but Watson’s second T20 century of his career off just 59 balls was what got them to 199-6. It was a night to forget for Morne Morkel who bowled four wicketless overs for 38 runs.
KKR, desperate for victory to confirm their spot in the playoffs, came close thanks to contributions from Yusuf Pathan and Andre Russell, but they would eventually fall nine runs short. Had it not been for Watson’s century, Chris Morris might have got the Man of the Match honours for his 4-23. KKR are in fourth, but the defending champions will fall out of the top four with the conclusion of the match between the Sunrisers Hyderabad and the Mumbai Indians.