It wasn’t all smooth sailing for the men in yellow, but different players rose to the occasion each time, to give the team a berth in the finals.

Style substance and experience A look at CSKs road to the finals of IPL 2018All photos from Facebook/Chennai Super Kings
Sports IPL 2018 Wednesday, May 23, 2018 - 16:11

The Chennai Super Kings (CSK) have been by far the most consistent franchise in the history of the Indian Premier League. Out of the total of 11 editions of the tournament, two of which the Super Kings were suspended for following the infamous spot-fixing scandal, the team has qualified for the knockout stages every season. It has also progressed to the IPL final on a record seven occasions, following Tuesday’s thrilling victory over the Sunrisers Hyderabad.

CSK had its most successful spell between 2010 and 2013. The Chennai-based franchise reached the final of the glamorous tournament four years in a row. CSK won back-to-back IPL titles in 2010 and 2011 by first defeating the Mumbai Indians and then repeated their success winning their second title against the Royal Challengers Bangalore.

The men in yellow then followed it up by finishing as the runners-up in 2012 and 2013, when the team lost the final to Kolkata Knight Riders and the Mumbai Indians respectively.

At the start of this edition of the IPL, there were many questions on how the team would perform after its suspension. The CSK squad was built on the idea of experience over young energy. A total of eleven players in the squad are above the age of 30, and Ravindra Jadeja is currently 29.

This experience is what has proved to be the x-factor for CSK in many of the games they have played. The team has, on multiple occasions this season, grabbed victory from the jaws of defeat and played themselves out of extremely tricky situations with multiple players making major contributions to the team in numerous victories. This and the fact that CSK has been known as a team that doesn’t like to make many changes to their existing squad year-on-year is what allows the team to be as consistent as it has been through the years. The team also faced adversity when their home advantage was taken away following protests over the Cauvery issue and hence had to move their matches to Pune.

CSK finished second in the IPL points table behind the Sunrisers Hyderabad. Both teams finished on 18 points, but SRH had a better net run-rate and as a result, gained the top spot. CSK and SRH were by far the two most impressive teams through the group stages, having won 9 out of their 14 games. CSK finished the group stage by winning 2 of their final 3 games, while SRH stuttered towards the end, losing their final 3 games.

Across the 15 games played by CSK so far in the tournament, the team has won 10 of them. In these 10 games, there have been 9 different players who have won the Man of the Match award: Dwayne Bravo, Sam Billings, Shane Watson, Ambati Rayudu, MS Dhoni, Ravindra Jadeja, Lungi Ngidi and Faf du Plessis.

Faf’s phenomenal knock of 67 from 42 balls in the first qualifier was what propelled the team to victory. He carried his bat through the innings to see his team to victory when it seemed like all hope was lost.

After being written off in the beginning of its first game of the season, CSK went on to surprise many by beating Mumbai Indians in what was a nail-biting game. Dwayne Bravo walked into the middle with 90 runs required from the last 8 overs and proceeded to play a match-winning inning of 68 from 30 balls to give CSK a memorable victory with one ball to spare.

CSK then followed it up with another last-ball victory. This was the first and only game that was played in Chennai. CSK again found itself in a spot of bother while chasing an imposing total of 203 set by KKR. It was English youngster Sam Billings who was the hero for CSK on this occasion as his 56 from 23 balls put CSK in a position to win the match even after, at one point, it required 48 runs from the final 21 balls.

The Super Kings suffered its first loss of the tournament to the Kings XI Punjab. Chris Gayle was the star of the show for Punjab as he smashed a 33-ball 63 and led his team to 192 in 20 overs. The CSK chase saw captain MS Dhoni put in a valiant effort, but lost the game by 4 runs. Dhoni finished with an unbeaten 79 off 44 balls.

After a dominant 64-run victory against the Rajasthan Royals, CSK then faced the in-form Sunrisers Hyderabad. However, the men in yellow came out on top, winning by just 4 runs, defending a total of 182. Ambati Rayudu, who scored 79, and Deepak Chahar, who finished with the figures of 3 for 15 from his 4 overs, starred in the victory.

The team played the Royal Challengers Bangalore after this. It was another nail-biter, with Quentin de Kock and AB de Villiers making merry with the bat, helping RCB put up a 200+ run total. However, Rayudu and Dhoni stepped up to the occasion, finishing the game off in style, with 2 balls to spare.

The remainder of the group stages were not as eventful for the Chennai Super Kings. The team won 4 of its last 8 games and finished second on the table.

In the first qualifier, CSK faced top-seeded SRH. In the previous two meetings in the group stages, Chennai had won in convincing fashion. Chennai won the toss and sent Hyderabad in to bat. The bowlers put immense pressure on the Hyderabad batting unit as it slumped to 88 for 6 in 15 overs. However, Carlos Brathwaite’s fireworks towards the end of the innings gave the Sunrisers a fighting chance with a total of 139.

CSK’s innings got off to a terrible start, with Shane Watson getting out in the very first over.  After losing Suresh Raina for 22, the Chennai batting unit collapsed to 92 for 7 in 15 overs, with Rashid Khan bowling a spectacular spell (2 for 11) to push his team to the top.

Faf du Plessis, who had been struggling till that point, was joined by Harbhajan Singh at the crease. Harbhajan played out the final 4 deliveries of Rashid’s spell. Faf du Plessis then proceeded to play a match-winning knock of 67 from 42 balls to put his team through to the summit clash for the record seventh time on Sunday.

As for the Sunrisers, they now face the winner of the clash between the Rajasthan Royals and Kolkata Knight Riders. The second qualifier for the final will be held on Friday at Eden Gardens. The winner on Friday will then face the Chennai Super Kings.

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