Dhoni criticises 'irresponsible' seniors
The second qualifier was the third occasion that Chennai Super Kings had conceded over 200 runs to Kings XI Punjab this season. They lost each time. A refreshingly familiar century from Virender Sehwag set up a target of 227, but it looked in considerable danger as Suresh Raina produced a breathtaking 25-ball 87.
The highest successful chase in T20 history was in Super Kings' grasp as they became the first side to post 100 runs in the Powerplay. MS Dhoni, their captain, had believed all the ingredients had been in place for their progress into the IPL final.
"I think definitely it was something we could have achieved, the reason being Suresh [and] the way he batted," Dhoni said, "I think in the middle overs there was some very irresponsible cricket by some of the most experienced international cricketers, so I think definitely we need to have a look, in a game like this when the stakes are high, you can't really commit mistakes."
Raina's blitz had allowed the other batsmen to play a normal T20 chase. The equation had mellowed down to 127 from 83 balls, with eight wickets in hand. Coupled with their batting riches, Super Kings are also a big-game team, having made five IPL finals. That they would stumble as badly as losing four wickets for 33 runs between the 12th and 17th overs contributed to Dhoni's disappointment.
He also had stern words for a weakness that has trailed Super Kings across seasons. While most times their slower bowlers would mend the perception of a weak bowling attack, this season they had received quite some tap and it continued on Friday night. Ravindra Jadeja's 4-0-48-0 today was his worst T20 spell yet and R Ashwin was also slapped for 44 runs in his four overs.
"Apart from that bowling department also, we need our spinners to improve a bit," Dhoni said "Especially on good flat wickets that has been a concern for us, and again it proved in this game also.
"They way they started, definitely because I had belief in my bowling that they will definitely let them score over 200 runs. But overall they batted really well."
The loss of Dwayne Bravo, who had injured his shoulder during the UAE leg of the tournament, had limited the options at Dhoni's disposal in a crunch game.
"One of our retained players, we lost him right at the start. And to come to the knockout stages without him, that itself is a big achievement. If Bravo was playing in a game like this, we'll have one more spinner or a fast bowler and that really gives us good support. Six bowlers is something you can manoeuvre more with, but what's done is done. Bravo got injured but still we did really well in this tournament."
Sehwag was the architect of Kings XI's mammoth total. Booming front foot drives and pin-point cuts behind square were on full view and none of the Super Kings bowlers could curb his strokeplay.
"I think Viru pa, once he gets going hardly any bowler can stop him, and in our bowling attack also there is hardly any quick bowler who can push him onto the back foot," Dhoni said. "I think he batted really well, took the challenge to the spinners, dominated the spinners, never really let us get back into the game, they scored 25 runs more. The way Suresh batted, it was within our reach."