Nehra, Hussey carry CSK to the final
Chennai Super Kings entered their sixth IPL final in eight attempts, withstanding and overcoming Royal Challengers' fightback on a slow pitch
Chennai Super Kings 140 for 7 (Hussey 56, Chahal 2-28) beat Royal Challengers Bangalore 139 for 8 (Gayle 41, Nehra 3-28) by three wicketsScorecard and ball-by-ball details
Chennai Super Kings entered their sixth IPL final in eight attempts, withstanding and overcoming Royal Challengers' fightback on a slow pitch. Super Kings seemed to have the game in control from the moment Ashish Nehra took out Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers in the fifth over. But Royal Challengers scrapped their way through to set a fighting target of 140. Their bowlers kept the Super Kings top order quiet in the first half of the chase, and the wickets came in the second. MS Dhoni hung in but fell after levelling the scores. R Ashwin nudged a single off the penultimate ball to seal the win.
Both captains had their wish fulfilled at the toss. Dew in mind, Dhoni wanted to chase. Knockout pressure and a dry pitch in mind, Kohli wanted runs on the board.
With R Ashwin turning and bouncing the ball right away, the Royal Challengers openers targeted Nehra. Kohli pulled and lofted him for a four and a six after which Nehra asked Dhoni to stand up to the stumps. First ball of Nehra's next over, Kohli stayed on the crease and tucked one straight to backward square leg.
Two balls later, Chris Gayle survived a close leg-before shout. Three balls later, de Villiers was not so lucky, given leg-before with replays showing the ball to have pitched just outside leg stump.
Ashwin removed Mandeep Singh soon, and Royal Challengers were limping at 36 for 3 in the eighth over.
Gayle bided his time, waiting for Dhoni to bring on his two left-arm spinners so he could attack them. Dhoni brought them on only after Gayle fell in the 14th over for 41 off 43. He instead used the part-time offspin of Suresh Raina after Ashwin had bowled out.
Dinesh Karthik and Gayle took Raina for a few runs, Gayle swinging a couple of big sixes over long-on, before Dhoni had his bowler change his line to get the left-hander. Raina went over the stumps, Gayle attempted the third six of the over and the bowler settled under the top-edge.
Nehra made his third important intervention of the night when he had Karthik caught at long-on in the 17th over for 28. Sarfaraz Khan made an intelligent 31 off 21 to drag the total to 139 for 8, but as Kohli said later, Royal Challengers were 15-20 runs short.
Dwayne Smith holed out early in the chase but Michael Hussey and Faf du Plessis had pushed the score to 61 by the tenth over. They had several close calls while running, and were put down once each, Hussey by Karthik and du Plessis by Gayle.
Yuzvendra Chahal broke the stand in the tenth over, bowling du Plessis for 21. Raina's poorest IPL season with the bat became worse when he charged out second ball and mishit Chahal to long-off.
Playing only his third match of the season, Hussey steered the score past 100, relying on the pull and the drive. Two sixes off Chahal in the 16th over reined in the asking-rate, which had almost touched ten.
Even after Hussey fell mishitting a pull off David Wiese in the 17th over, Super Kings found the big shot just when they needed it. Pawan Negi swung Harshal Patel over deep midwicket for six in the 18th, Dhoni stepped out to lift Mitchell Starc over mid-off for four in the 19th.
Negi was run out in the same over, and Starc broke Dwayne Bravo's off stump with his last ball, but only five were needed by then, and Royal Challengers were left to rue the rare collective failure of their big three batsmen.
Abhishek Purohit is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo