IPL: du Plessis pulls off great escape to lead CSK into final

SUMMARY: Chennai Super Kings (du Plessis 67*, Raina 22, Rashid 2-11) beat Sunrisers Hyderabad (Brathwaite 43*, Bravo 2-25) by two wickets.

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Faf du Plessis, playing only his fifth match of the season, repaid his captain’s faith by playing an innings MS Dhoni himself will be proud of.

Chasing 140 to make their seventh final in nine attempts, Chennai Super Kings were reduced to 62-6 by the excellent Sunrisers Hyderabad bowling, but du Plessis took the game deep, induced a few errors from the opposition captain, and capitalised on small mistakes here and there.

Carlos Brathwaite bowled the 18th over, with 43 to get, ahead of Sandeep Sharma and Shakib Al Hasan. Du Plessis hit that over for four, six and four to give an excellent match its final momentum shift.

If Sunrisers bowlers were brilliant in the defence, Super Kings had bowled to a plan – that to not give away many drives at the unforgiving Wankhede Stadium – to keep Sunrisers down to 139. Incidentally, it was Brathwaite whose hitting in the final few overs – 43 off 29 – gave Sunrisers something to bowl at.

After Shikhar Dhawan played on the first ball of the match, Kane Williamson drove the fourth ball beautifully through cover for four. Deepak Chahar then made two errors by straying down the leg side, but that was the end of the mistakes.

Super Kings immediately shifted to a no-drive policy, bowling short or short of a length. Williamson gloved a pull – his fourth dismissal to short or short-of-a-length deliveries this season, Shreevats Goswami offered Lungi Ngidi a return catch, and Shakib Al Hasan too fell to a catch down the leg side.

In the seventh over, Sunrisers were 50-4. Super Kings’ fast bowlers bowled 48 deliveries in the first nine overs, and 20 of them were short or short of a good length, for just 19 runs and four wickets.

When Sunrisers needed a run-a-ball partnership, they had Manish Pandey and Yusuf Pathan in a rut. Pandey’s horrible season became worse with a return catch for Ravindra Jadeja for 8 off 16 balls. Yusuf Pathan was peppered with short balls, never mind a wide here or there.

The fast bowlers bowled 12 short or short-of-a-good length deliveries to him for just 11 runs. When he fell, at the end of the 15th over, Sunrisers were 88-6.

Before this game, Dwayne Bravo had gone for 11.92 in the last five overs this season, making him not a great choice at death even though he does largely a thankless job. With Lungi Ngidi providing him an option, Dhoni has now started using Bravo more in a role that gives him some leeway.

Beginning just after the Powerplay, this was the earliest Bravo has bowled this season. He thanked his captain with figures of 2-25 by the end of the 17th over, but now Dhoni had to bowl others.

Carlos Brathwaite made 43 off 29

Brathwaite took a shine to Shardul Thakur, hitting the first six of the whole innings in the 18th, following it immediately with another, and taking 37 off his 18th and 20th overs.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar went one better than Deepak Chahar when he played around with Shane Watson before getting him for a duck in the first over. Siddarth Kaul bowled beautifully to bowl Suresh Raina and Ambati Rayudu in successive deliveries in the fourth over, making it 24-3.

This brought out Dhoni – only the third time in the IPL history that he was batting inside the fourth over – and typical Dhoni strategy. Dhoni didn’t want to lose wickets, Dhoni wanted to take it deep, he took nine balls to get off the mark, he told du Plessis they will play Rashid out when he was finally introduced in the ninth over.

Rashid, though, proved too good as he snuck a wrong’un past a forward defensive to comprehensively bowl Dhoni out. At 39-4 in the eighth, it seemed all over.

Du Plessis faced just six balls in the Powerplay. He looked inconspicuous during the collapse. Even as Bravo and Jadeja and Chahar fell to make it 92-7 after 15 overs, du Plessis kept knocking it around. In between, he hit Shakib for a four and a six in the 14th over to stay in touch with the game. Later in the night, this might have had a bigger impact on the game than just those 10 runs.

The end game With one and four runs coming off the 16th and 17th overs, Sunrisers had every reason to feel good about their chances. Super Kings had three wickets in hand, and 43 to get in the last three overs. Williamson had one over each from Kaul and Bhuvneshwar. Someone had to bowl that one over. That Shakib’s last two balls went for 10 runs might have tipped the scales in Brathwaite’s favour, but du Plessis clinically took him apart.

Williamson might have erred again when he bowled Kaul in the 19th, risking not bowling Bhuvneshwar out, but there was more fortune going Super Kings’ way here. Thakur edged the first two balls of the 19th over for boundaries, making it 15 off 10. This was not the first piece of luck they had enjoyed on the night. A full toss over Shakib’s head earlier was called a dead ball, and another wide not called when Brathwaite was hitting Thakur.

Now, though, Super Kings needed just a clinical finish, which du Plessis provided, with a dash of spectacular by sealing it with a six. (ESPNCricinfo)

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