A brilliant innings by Faf du Plessis took the Chennai Super Kings into the final of the IPL when log-leaders Sunrisers Hyderabad were beaten by two wickets, with five balls remaining.
It was he who stood alone as his teammates collapsed to 62-6 after 12 overs, chasing the underwhelming target of 139-7 set by the Sunrisers. He smashed 67 off 42 balls, with five fours and four sixes, the last of which ended the match.
Even with a stand of 30 with Deepak Chahar, the Super Kings were in danger at 92-7, but Shardul Thakur provided an injection of 15 off five balls (three fours) that gave Du Plessis the reward he was due.
‘Faf’s innings, is where experience counts,’ said CSK captain MS Dhoni. ‘It’s not easy to not play a lot of games, but I always say you need to train your mind as well. That’s where the experience comes in. You visualise what your role is, how you can contribute, and Faf has been brilliant.’
The Super Kings, who have made the knockouts nine times in as many seasons, must have been feeling rather pleased with themselves after they sent the Sunrisers into bat.
After all, they had beaten the Sunrisers twice in the league phase, and the log leaders were coming off a run of three losses.
They were given the perfect start when Shikhar Dhawan was bowled first ball and it got even better when Lungi Ngidi snapped up Shreevats Goswami (12), caught and bowled, in the fourth over with the score on 34. The big-hitting Kane Williamson (24) was caught behind off Thakur. When Dwayne Bravo had Shakib al Hasan caught behind for 12, the Sunrisers were in serious trouble at 50-4 in the seventh over.
It didn’t get any better until Carlos Braithwaite, the man who smashed Ben Stokes for four sixes off his first four balls to win the World T20 for the West Indies, stepped up again. He blasted 43 off 29 balls, with four sixes and a four, to take the Sunrisers from 88-6 after 15 overs to a vaguely challenging 139-7.
Ngidi continued to enhance his reputation by ending with 1-20 in his four overs, which gives him 10 wickets for 113 runs from the six games he has played.