Ruthless Raina takes Chennai to final
Chennai Super Kings 174 (Raina 94*, Vijay 41) beat Royal Challengers Bangalore 123 (Pandey 52, Bollinger 3-27) by 52 runs according to D-L method
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
A steady drizzle, a slippery ball, a wet outfield and a shortened game did nothing to dampen the action-packed tenor of the Champions League semi-final between two Indian heavyweights. Suresh Raina more than compensated for the loss of a Powerplay over in an electrifying innings that sealed Chennai Super Kings' place in the final in Johannesburg. Capitalising on a significantly weakened Royal Challengers Bangalore attack which was deprived of Dale Steyn due to a lower back injury, and with support from M Vijay, Raina treated the sporting crowd to an air show. It propelled Chennai to a massive score and put the game beyond the reach of a line-up even as power-packed as Bangalore's.
The turning point was Steyn's injury off a superbly-judged catch in the fourth over. Michael Hussey, looking to force the pace after a 153-minute rain delay, tried to loft Vinay Kumar over mid-off where Steyn was stationed. The shot was mistimed and Steyn back-pedalled several yards to snap the catch over his head, but fell backwards in the process. The impact of the fall left him gasping in pain and he had to be helped off the field, robbing Bangalore of the short-ball barrage he would have unleashed in the middle overs, a strategy that had served them well.
Raina had little time to settle in with the Powerplay overs running out and the game reduced to 17 overs, but set about getting into his groove against a generous offering of length and short deliveries. Bangalore captain Anil Kumble had to resort to Virat Kohili's dibbly-dobblies and the medium pace of Dillon du Preez, who was himself a replacement for Jacques Kallis, out due to a neck injury. Raina's response was ruthless, one that forced Vijay to cede the floor after he had himself set the tone with a couple of imperious pulls off the opening seamers.
The onslaught began, ironically, in the over after the Powerplay as two of Kohli's pitched-up deliveries disappeared over Raina's favourite zone on the cricket field - the deep-midwicket region. du Preez met the same fate and his attempt to show any spunk with the short ball, as his injured fast-bowling team-mate had so successfully done in previous attempts, was laid to waste. Raina pulled him into the stands over deep square leg.
There were a couple of moments when Bangalore could have rebounded against the psychological setback that Steyn's loss had dealt them. Raina slog-swept Kumble to deep midwicket in the seventh over and Manish Pandey attempted an acrobatic catch but couldn't hold on. The effort was praiseworthy but incurred Kumble's wrath as Pandey had walked in a fair distance for that delivery rather than standing at the edge of the rope. In the 11th over from Kumble, Raina attempted the same shot, only to top edge it towards short-fine where Rahul Dravid simply lost the ball and backed out of what would have been a sitter. Kumble, this time, could only react with a cold stare.
Vijay's supporting role in the partnership had its moment in the sun when he smashed du Preez for a six over midwicket. Bangalore's woes did not abate even after he was dismissed by Vinay in the 12th over; Raina slapped the next ball ferociously into the crowd to bring up his half-century.
It only got worse for Bangalore from there, and the helplessness was evident amid further catching lapses, missed run-outs, byes conceded by Robin Uthappa and the spate of no-balls and wides. Cameron White had bowled just once in 37 Twenty20 games but Kumble had no option but to turn to him. Bowling seam-up, White conceded two wides and as many no-balls in an over that yielded 13. The result was worse when Kumble reposed his faith in the final over where Raina deflated White with three fours, all off long-hops.
Nor was Kumble spared. On a track and in conditions where he could only hope to skid the ball through, his variations were less potent and Raina cashed in. Two short balls were dispatched for fours in the 15th over and, as if to not deny the Bangalore captain of the treatment meted out to the rest, Raina gave him the customary swipe over cow corner. Kumble's spell was acrimonious one, Raina's victory sweet and Bangalore's woes endless. Not long after, Kohli injured himself taking a catch but he did come back to bat in what soon developed into a hopeless chase.
The signs were ominous for Bangalore in the first over of their response. Albie Morkel moved the ball prodigiously, beating the bat with a frequency normally witnessed on the first morning of a Test. The bounce was uneven and amid the mounting pressure, a wicket looked seemingly inevitable. Doug Bollinger snared Dravid off his first ball to an unconvincing drive, Morkel got Uthappa to produce a top-edge and Bollinger returned to undo Ross Taylor with some extra bounce. Kohli fell soon after and at 35 for 4 in the eighth over, there was no coming back. Manish Pandey and Praveen Kumar, though, did display some pyrotechnics of their own to give Bangalore some consolation on an otherwise dispiriting day.
Siddhartha Talya is a sub editor at Cricinfo