Ashish Nehra displayed a strong spell of bowling, taking two wickets for a mere nine runs in three overs © IANS (File Photo)
Ashish Nehra displayed a strong spell of bowling, taking two wickets for a mere nine runs in three overs © IANS (File Photo)

By Freddie Wilde

Oct 2, 2014

The Chennai Super Kings (CSK) will play the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) in the Champions League Twenty20 (CLT20) final following a dramatic 65 run victory against the Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) in Hyderabad on Thursday evening.

An aggressive late surge from the Super Kings lower order elevated them from 65 for three after ten overs to a competitive 182 for seven after 20 before the Kings XI Punjab collapsed to make just 117 in response.

Heading into the match Kings XI Punjab, the form Indian Premier League side of this year and the most dominant team in the Group Stage, were widely regarded as favourites. However they were left helpless in the face of a near-perfect performance from CSK that took them through to their second Champions League final.

The Super Kings were rocked early on by the loss of both openers Dwayne Smith and Brendon McCullum to leave them reeling at 29-2 and things got worse before they got better with Suresh Raina falling for just six. However, the coming together of Faf du Plessis and Dwayne Bravo began the comeback for the Super Kings – the international pairing putting on 65 for the fifth wicket. When du Plessis fell, failures for Pawan Negi—interestingly promoted up the order—and MS Dhoni, left the assault in the hands of Bravo and Ravindra Jadeja. And having registered no double figure overs in the first 11 overs, CSK proceeded to score seven in the remaining nine.

The target was not too stiff for the Kings XI batting order on paper—perhaps the only set of batsmen in global domestic cricket who can lay claim to being as powerful as CSK—but there has been a sense of fragility to their batting successes in the Group Stage, with no one player clearly dominating and enjoying luck along the way. So when they did succumb it was not overly surprising.

What’s more the Super Kings were superb in the field and with the ball. Ashish Nehra and Mohit Sharma’s seam bowling complimenting the consistently strong spin trio of Ravichandran Ashwin, Jadeja and Raina. The Super Kings will head into the Final as favourites following today’s comprehensive victory over such as a strong side as Kings XI—and indeed more pertinently following the news that the world’s most influential T20 player and best bowler in the world Sunil Narine has been banned from bowling due to being reported for the second time for having a suspect action.

Narine’s absence dramatically weakens KKR ahead of the clash on Saturday, although it is worth noting that both IPL finals won by KKR in the past, in 2012 and in 2014 were won despite relatively underwhelming performances from Narine who took just 1 wicket and conceded 83 runs. KKR can win without their star bowler, but it will be considerably harder.

In Narine’s absence the key battle-ground shifts to KKR’s batting which although deep is not as strong as CSK’s but KKR will have to find 20 or so runs that Narine wouldn’t have conceded from somewhere and a big performance from a player like Yusuf Pathan who scores fast could make the difference.

Meanwhile today’s defeat ends what has been the best year of Kings XI Punjab’s history, topping the IPL table, finishing runners-up after beating CSK in the play-off before reaching the semi-finals of the Champions League. A shrewd auction can be seen to be the foundation of their success. Acquiring Glenn Maxwell as he ascended to the vertex of modern batsmanship was a coup, but so too were the signings of a rejuvenated Mitchell Johnson and youngster Manan Vohra.

Less headline grabbing names such as Akshar Patel and Parvinder Awana have also been instrumental in Kings XI’s rapid rise. Ahead of IPL 8 the Punjabi franchise could do with acquiring another opening batsman to back up Zohra and Virender Sehwag whose ageing demise could arrive at any moment and perhaps also a wicket keeper to back up Wriddhiman Saha who has also been a revelation.

Complete coverage of Champions League T20 (CLT20) 2014 here

(Freddie Wilde is a freelance cricket writer. You can follow him @fwildecricket)