Suresh Raina Chennai Super Kings
Suresh Raina has returned to form with consecutive fifties (AFP Photo)

With the league stage of IPL 2019 coming to a close, we are finally entered the business end of the tournament – the playoffs. The four teams – Chennai Super Kings, Mumbai Indians, Delhi Capitals and Sunrisers Hyderabad – will battle it out to make the final scheduled for May 12.

CSK are the only team who have made the playoffs every season (barring 2015 and 2016 when they were suspended). Talking of playoffs, there’s a certain Suresh Raina who bosses the stage boasting of a superb record during this particular stage. From 14 innings in playoffs, Raina aggregates 449 runs and over the years has played several match-winning knocks to help CSK through to the final.

However, the ongoing season has seen Raina perform below his standards having managed 359 runs from 14 innings at 27.61 with three half-centuries. However, he seems to have returned to his best in the final two league matches (vs Delhi Capitals and Kings XI Punjab) with successive half-centuries.

With Raina finding form right before the playoff stage, CSK appear a more dangerous outfit. Here we look at the top innings from the left-hander in IPL playoffs over the years: –

2008: 55* vs Kings XI Punjab (semifinal)

CSK faced KXIP in the second semifinal of the inaugural season at the Wankhede Stadium. KXIP opted to bat and posted a low 112/8 with Ramesh Powar top-scoring for them with 28 off 21. The target wasn’t challenging by any stretch of imagination. However, CSK lost opener S Vidyut early. Then Parthiv Patel and Raina combined to take the chase forward, both hitting unbeaten half-centuries. Patel struck 48-ball 51 while Raina hit a brisk 55 off 34 with four fours and as many sixes. The target was overhauled in 14.5 overs.

2011: 73* vs Royal Challengers Bangalore (Qualifier 1)

An attacking 44-ball 70* from Virat Kohli powered RCB to a challenging 175/4. The new-ball pair of Zaheer Khan and Sreenath Aravind got rid of the CSK openers inside two overs. Raina, who had walked in at his customary No. 3 spot, anchored the chase hitting an unbeaten 73. CSK wobbled before Albie Morkel’s 10-ball 28* cameo sealed the deal in the final over.

2013: 82* vs Mumbai Indians (Qualifier 1)

A dominating show with the bat after CSK opted to bat at Feroz Shah Kotla. Openers Michael Hussey and Murali Vijay added 52 runs before being separated. That was the only success MI would have in the innings with Hussey and Raina making merry. Hussey top-scored with 86 off 58 and Raina made 82 off 42 as CSK posted 192/1. Despite a blistering fifty from Dwayne Smith, MI were bowled out for 144 in 18.4 overs.

2014: 54* vs MI (Eliminator)

Another meeting between the two IPL giants. CSK put MI in to bat and opener Lendl Simmons’ fifty helped them to 173/8 at the Brabourne Stadium. CSK openers Dwayne Smith and Faf du Plessis led a blazing start with a 60-run partnership. Harbhajan Singh got rid of them in the space of four deliveries and Pragyan Ojha added another wicket to leave CSK in a bit of trouble. But that man Raina stood tall and delivered, yet again. Joining hands with David Hussey (29*), he smashed unbeaten 54 off 33 with four fours and two sixes to knock out the defending champions.

2014: 87 vs KXIP (Qualifier 2)

Having just eliminated MI, CSK then met IPL league stage table-toppers KXIP in the second qualifier. KXIP were asked to bat first and opener Virender Sehwag dazzled with a superlative century – 122 off 58 with 12 fours and eight sixes. KXIP posted a mammoth 226/6. CSK lost Faf off the second delivery of their chase. And then came Raina. He blew KXIP away with a stunning assault, threatening to rewrite the T20I batting records. In an astonishing assault, Raina blasted 87 off mere 25 deliveries as CSK scored 100/2 in Powerplay overs. He belted 12 fours and six sixes during his stay and KXIP had George Bailey to thank for who had him run-out off the first delivery of seventh over. His blazing knock set the contest for a thrilling finish with CSK recording a last-ball win.