Abu Dhabi: Chennai Super Kings crushed Kings XI Punjab by nine wickets to end their worst-ever IPL season on Sunday on a positive note, with Ruturaj Gaikwad's third successive half-century providing hope for a bright future.
The result also cut short KXIP's campaign in the 13th season of the lucrative event.
KXIP needed a win in their final league game to remain in contention for the playoffs, besides depending on other results. But CSK had other ideas.
Bringing his big-hitting prowess to the fore, Deepak Hooda lifted a floundering KXIP to 153 for six with a counter-attacking 30-ball 62 after being invited to bat.
In reply, the returning Faf du Plessis (48) provided CSK the impetus at the top with young Gaikwad playing the second fiddle. The seasoned South African hit four boundaries and two sixes in a first-wicket stand of 82 with Gaikwad in just under 10 overs.
As he looked to put the match beyond KXIP's grasp, du Plessis got out after going for a premeditated scoop off Chris Jordan, who smartly took the pace off the ball.
The needless shot, notwithstanding, CSK never looked in trouble with the duo of Gaikwad and Ambati Rayudu taking them home with seven balls to spare.
Gaikwad remained not out on 62 off 49 balls after striking six boundaries and a six, while Rayudu made a run-a-ball 30.
Earlier, Hooda smashed four sixes and three fours during his entertaining stay in the middle. Thanks to Hooda, KXIP managed 40 runs in the last three overs after CSK, opting to field, choked their middle-order for runs.
Hooda picked his spots cleverly and also ran well between the wickets on a day when his more accomplished batting colleagues failed to capitalise on their starts.
Pacer Lungi Ngidi picked up three for 39 for CSK. Returning to the side after an injury-forced break, Mayank Agarwal got KXIP off to a breezy start, collecting two boundaries off Deepak Chahar's first over.
In-form skipper KL Rahul got into the act with the day's first six, over the third man region before striking two boundaries off Shardul Thakur.
In the next over, Agarwal welcomed Ngidi by driving him to the long-off boundary, but the South African had his revenge in the next delivery as the opener edged the ball into the middle stump.
Three tight overs followed during which Ngidi bowled Rahul with a well-disguised full slower ball at the off stump.
After a brisk start by KXIP, the CSK bowling attack did extremely well to strangle the strong opposition batting that comprised the likes of Chris Gayle and Nicholas Pooran in the middle-order. From 44 for no loss in five overs, KXIP were struggling at 65 for two at the end of the 10th over.
Shardul made life more difficult for Punjab as Pooran's thin inside edge was taken by Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
In the penultimate ball of the 12th over, leg-spinner Imran Tahir dealt a body blow to KXIP as he had Gayle trapped in front of the wicket. The big-hitting Jamaican went for a review but the ball pitched in line and was clearly going to hit the stumps.
KXIP, in between, enjoyed a couple of good overs but CSK maintained their stranglehold.
Hooda then scored some useful runs down the order, including smashing Ngidi for two sixes, as KXIP ended the innings on a blazing note.
Find latest and upcoming tech gadgets online on Tech2 Gadgets. Get technology news, gadgets reviews & ratings. Popular gadgets including laptop, tablet and mobile specifications, features, prices, comparison.
In-form KL Rahul spent considerable time in perfecting his pull-shots with deliveries hurled from 18 yards during Monday's net session.
The Indian team looked completely out of sorts as a unit in the opening ODI against Australia.
Known for his classical batting, Rahul said that even if he has to score at a high strike-rate of 160 to 170, he can do it minus the blitzkrieg.