Chennai Super Kings sauntered through to the Champions League semi-finals with an effortless eight-wicket win in Ranchi, while scuttling Brisbane Heat's tournament hopes. A stuttering Heat top order laid a mediocre foundation, before the men in the middle ran aground on Super Kings' spin.
R Ashwin was almost indecipherable in the middle overs, but Ravindra Jadeja and Suresh Raina contributed fine spells as well; the trio shared four wickets and conceded just 37 runs in 11 overs collectively. Michael Hussey then stroked an unhurried, unbeaten half century, to help run down the target of 138 in 15.5 overs.
Dom Michael had had quite a road to the Champions League in 2013, but could not manage to make a run in his first Twenty20 match, departing in the first over to Mohit Sharma. James Hopes then promised much during his 14-ball 20, but mis-hit Albie Morkel to mid-off to leave his side at 29 for 2 in the fourth over.
It wasn't until spin arrived after the Powerplay, however, that Heat's evening truly took a nosedive. Ravindra Jadeja had had a poor tournament with the ball until tonight, and perhaps Heat had planned to dominate him early, but Dan Christian's attempt to hit Jadeja's first ball for a straight six, ended with him being caught at long-off for three. Four balls later, Joe Burns edged Jadeja to slip to collect a golden duck.
All this did was set the scene for Ashwin's last three overs, which cost two runs and claimed the wicket of Chris Lynn who underestimated the turn Ashwin generated from a conventional offbreak, and top-edged to short third man. The remaining 17 deliveries were a canny mix of googlies, offbreaks, carrom balls and more big-spinning leggies. Heat's middle order could hardly lay a bat on his deliveries, and soon abandoned any thoughts of hitting him to the fence.
The six overs following the Powerplay cost Heat four wickets for 12 runs, and from 66 for 6, a total below 120 beckoned. Ben Cutting, however, stroked his best Twenty20 innings to elevate his side toward credibility. He was watchful alongside Chris Hartley to begin with, hitting six from his first 14 balls, but adopted violence as the innings drew to a close, hitting five sixes from the last 10 balls he faced to finish on 42 not out from 25.
On a decent batting pitch, and with dew collecting on the outfield, 137 for 7 would rarely have been a base for victory, and at no stage in the chase did it test a purring Super Kings batting order. Hussey and Vijay punished indiscipline, but the pair were largely content to push runs into the outfield when the bowlers found their line.
With Super Kings' bowlers having prospered, Nathan Hauritz's overs shaped as crucial ones for Heat, but he was launched for two sixes in his first over, and was almost as expensive in his two subsequent overs. Vijay departed for 42, breaking a run of three consecutive ducks, but after having helped put on 75 runs for the first wicket in 9.2 overs, the side were well on their way to victory. MS Dhoni finished the match with a six, much to the delight of his home crowd, and Super Kings confirmed themselves as the in-form side of yet another tournament.