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IPL qualifier: CSK's Cinderella act has run its course

The Chennai Super Kings had their fate in their hands. They needed to beat Kings XI Punjab and get in to a comfortable playoff position but failed to do so. They were dependent on the results of the other three games to go their way. Two of them were likely to happen, based on the form of the teams in the tournament. The third one – RCB vs Deccan Chargers – if it were to happen, would have been a miracle, and it did. Dale Steyn pulled out the bowling performance of the tournament and a power-packed RCB lineup collapsed on its own weight when all they had to do was chase down a meager total. By a fair distance, Steyn is the Man of the tournament for CSK.

In the eliminator game, stuttering at 2/1, with dinks and French-cuts, CSK recovered through S Badrinath and Mike Hussey. Once again, the Mumbai Indians known for the quality in their bowling and batting, just fell away leading us to where we are now — CSK is one win from an appearance in the IPL finals for the fourth time in five seasons.

This is beyond any sort of cricketing reason. Surely, the clock has to strike midnight for CSK against the Delhi Daredevils and turn them in to the confused, diffident unit that can neither put up huge totals nor defend them, for most of the tournament.

CSK is one win from an appearance in the IPL finals for the fourth time in five seasons. PTI

Chennai have been hanging literally by the skin of their teeth for nearly three weeks now. They had almost no margin of error with four games to go and yet, they are here, like that pesky cockroach that never dies.

Delhi have a tremendous opening pair ably supported by Jayawardene, Naman Ojha and others. The Daredevils more importantly, have been the table toppers primarily due to their powerful bowling line up, with Morne Morkel leading all bowlers in the wicket column. Umesh Yadav, Irfan Pathan, S Naeem, Varun Aaron, Pawan Negi and if they do their selection right, Andre Russell are available to back up Morkel. That’s by far the most potent, all-round attack in the league.

One might say Chennai are going to be playing at home and with the clearances obtained to open up the G, H and I stands which will bring in an additional 12,500 fans, there might be that much more vocal support for the home team, but I think that is just 12,500 more fans that are going to go home disappointed. By dawdling through the tournament, Chennai has put itself in an impossible situation of winning three games in a row, in 5 days, no less.

One might even say that the slowish pitch at Chepauk may bring the Chennai spinners in to play. Looking at the numbers, Chennai’s spinners are averaging an abysmal 55.30 runs per wicket, with an economy nearing 8 runs an over at home. Chepauk isn’t the fortress it was last year when CSK won all their home games. In fact, visiting team spinners have done remarkably better, averaging under 25 runs per wicket at slightly more than 6 runs per over.

Certainly, CSK have exceeded anyone’s expectation by getting to a point where they are just one win from the finals but I think this is where the magic runs out. They were down for the count a long time ago but have, mostly through help from other teams, are in this position. The clock will strike twelve tonight in Chennai for CSK, surely?