In 2009, it was Adam Gilchrist who evicted a formidable Delhi Daredevils outfit from the IPL with a savage 85 in the semi-finals. In 2012, it was Murali Vijay who reprised Gilchrist's audacity with an outstanding century that shoved out the No. 1-ranked team in what was virtually a semi-final. Yet again, having played good cricket to storm into the playoffs, Delhi played a poor match – poorer than their defeat to Kolkata Knight Riders in the first Qualifier – to crash out of IPL 5.
If Delhi's decision to keep Ross Taylor down at No. 6 in Tuesday's match defied logic, then their move to drop the holder of the purple cap, Morne Morkel, and draft in an IPL debutant in Sunny Gupta was baffling. Vijay set the tone for a superb innings by hitting Gupta's first two balls for four, and by the time he was done, having hit 15 fours and four sixes in a 58-ball 113, Chennai Super Kings had reached 222 for 5. Stifled by an excellent fielding effort, Delhi were crushed by 86 runs.
Vijay, who came into this do-or-die match with 181 runs without a single fifty, picked the biggest match to perform – exemplifying a trait that CSK have imbibed outstandingly in Twenty20 cricket. He did not indulge in unconventional shots and stuck mostly to crisp drives and flicks. He reached his fifty off 28 balls and then took only 23 more to get to the fastest hundred of the season. It was an awesome innings.
The tone for Chennai's dominance was set in the first over itself, bowled by Gupta, as Vijay lofted boundaries over mid-off for four through the covers. Umesh Yadav was delectably pushed through the covers off the back foot, Andre Russell put away through midwicket, and Varun Aaron clattered for fours over extra cover, through square leg and over short fine leg in one over.
Michael Hussey hit a couple boundaries before he was caught behind for a 22-ball 20, but Vijay applied himself excellently. Pawan Negi pulled back the scoring for a few overs but Virender Sehwag had a torrid 11th over that went for 21 as Vijay hit two sixes – one of which was caught by Taylor who stepped onto the boundary - and two fours.
Suresh Raina, upright and packing his drives with power, scored 27 off 17 balls in a stand of 69 in 33 balls before falling to Negi. MS Dhoni larruped 23 off 10 balls – including successive sixes off Gupta - before he was third out at 173 in the 17th over, during which Vijay clipped a couple off his pads to reach his century off 51 balls. After an understandably emotional celebration, he helped himself to consecutive boundaries off Aaron. Dwayne Bravo added the finishing touches yet again with a ballistic 12-ball 33 as Chennai took 25 off a hopeless Aaron's final over.
After such a battering in the field, Delhi's only hope was for Sehwag and David Warner to fire but the pair was back in the dugout inside four overs. The out-of-sorts Warner, averaging 24.60 in his last five innings, drove Ben Hilfenhaus to Vijay at mid-off and Sehwag – who came in at No. 3 - miscued a pull off Albie Morkel. That left the rest of the batsmen with far too much to do.
Mahela Jayawardene and Taylor rallied with 52-run stand in 4.4 overs before the latter fell for 24 off 14 balls to Bravo's offcutter. Though Jayawardene kept the score ticking, Delhi were behind the asking rate at 89 by the halfway mark. Spin accounted for Andre Russell and Naman Ojha, and though Jayawardene thumped himself past fifty his dismissal, bowled by Ashwin attempting a reverse pull, killed all hopes. That left Delhi with 96 to win from 32 balls and it proved way too much. Gupta's forgettable debut was capped with a first-ball duck, exemplifying Delhi's overall aptitude in the playoffs.
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