Chennai Super Kings, boosted by a determined display from their bowlers led by Doug Bollinger, put an end to Deccan Chargers' run of five consecutive wins to qualify for the IPL final for the second time and confirm their place in the Champions League Twenty20. They overcame a poor start, aided by a measured partnership from MS Dhoni and S Badrinath, and a late surge from S Anirudha helped post 142 in tricky conditions. Bollinger and R Ashwin then crippled Deccan in their chase, and the rest contributed to chip away at the middle order, to seal a hard-fought win.
Deccan, given their successful run, would have backed themselves to overhaul Chennai's score comfortably. The conditions were aiding swing and movement, and the pitch was taking turn, but that had little to do with their slow start to the chase. Adam Gilchrist and Herschelle Gibbs, both searching for form, batted in a manner contrary to their reputation, preferring caution over attack in the Powerplay. Bollinger varied his lengths and Ashwin, like he has for much of the tournament, altered his pace and flight to again prove economical. While Deccan's approach, for the most part, remained restrained, a significant number of dot balls in the first six overs were failed attempts at the big shots.
The only convincing shot to the boundary was a straight six from Gilchrist off Ashwin, but Bollinger ended the misery with a double-strike in the sixth over. Gilchrist flicked straight to midwicket and T Suman, whose promotion to No.3 had triggered a turnaround in Deccan's fortunes this IPL, cut straight to point. The Powerplay yielded just 23, the second-lowest in the tournament, and it was only a matter of time before the frustration set in.
Rohit Sharma has often had to rescue Deccan from trouble, but he added to their woes by lofting Albie Morkel to long on with the field spread out. Equally dispiriting for Deccan was Gibbs' lack of conviction. Dropped from the team for his problems at the top, Gibbs had been recalled at the expense of an allrounder for his experience and game-changing ability. But the shortage in confidence was evident, for, in the wake of an escalating required-rate and the attacking field with a slip and leg slip in place, he struggled to pierce the in-field, particularly against spin. Several deliveries were defended either side of the pitch, interspersed with a streaky boundary, and his downfall came in the 11th over when he played on to Shadab Jakati.
The match was not over, with Andrew Symonds striking Jakati for consecutive fours in an over which fetched 17. But when he, in an act of desperation in the 16th over, slogged Ashwin to deep midwicket, Chennai were virtually through. Bollinger returned to nip out two more in his next spell and sealed Deccan's fate.
Dhoni's decision to bat on a testing pitch was prompted by his faith in the top order to handle the conditions, but it let him down despite being given chances. Matthew Hayden was dropped twice, Suresh Raina once, but those reprieves amounted for little as both fell in tame fashion to give Deccan the early edge. In between, M Vijay had played back to a full delivery to be caught plumb, and Chennai limped to 29 for 3.
Dhoni and Badrinath were cautious in their approach, but ensured the run-rate didn't slip. Badrinath dropped anchor and Dhoni, amid the spate of cuts, dabs and nudges, stepped up to find the boundary. Their partnership of 52 comprised just four boundaries, three of which were from Dhoni's bat. He smashed Harmeet Singh and RP Singh through the off side and charged to drive Pragyan Ojha down the ground. But another aggressive maneuver from Deccan, who fielded a slip for Harmeet's legcutters, earned them their fourth wicket as Dhoni slashed one straight to Rohit.
Badrinath did his best to prevent the innings from stagnating. He launched Ojha for a straight six and slugged Symonds over mid-on for a boundary before being stumped in the penultimate over.
Thanks to a combination of some power hitting and streaky batting, Chennai managed to score 46 off the last five overs. Anirudha, replacing Sudeep Tyagi, targeted RP and Harris to strike a couple of sixes to lift his team to 142 - a major recovery considering Deccan's meek reply, which left them hunting for consolation in Saturday's third-place playoff against Royal Challengers Bangalore.