The Chennai Super Kings showcased their big-match temperament and collective class as they steamrolled Mumbai Indians by 38 runs here Wednesday to move a step closer to the Indian Premier League final.
A thunderous unfinished partnership of 73 off just 29 balls for the sixth wicket between skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni (51 not out) and Dwayne Bravo (33 not out) carried the Super Kings to 187 for five after being put into bat and losing two early wickets.
In reply, the Mumbai Indians, who had beaten the Super Kings in both the previous two meetings this season, faltered after the run out of Sachin Tendulkar (11), followed by the dismissal of in-form opener Dwayne Smith(38) and were pegged to 149 for nine with seamers Bravo (2 for 10) and Albie Morkel (2 for 31) delivering body blows.
While the Mumbai Indians were eliminated from the competition, the Super Kings take on Delhi Daredevils in Chennai Friday for the right to face the Kolkata Knight Riders in Sunday's final, also at the MA Chidambaram Stadium.
The Super Kings who were on the brink of elimination, but stayed on in fourth spot due to superior Net Run Rate following a tie with Royal Challengers Bangalore, rose to the occasion as in the past two seasons to outplay Mumbai Indians.
The Mumbai Indians chase began at a gallop with Smith blazing away from one end while Tendulkar complimenting him with some well-timed shots before disaster struck as they lost three wickets in just few deliveries.
Tendulkar (11) was the first to go following a mix-up as he sacrificed his wicket to be run out, but Smith (38) who had earlier blasted Hilfenhaus for 14 runs in the seamer's very first over, played across the line to left-arm spinner Shabad Jakati to be caught and then Dinesh Karthik (6) edged Morkel's first ball to Dhoni as Mumbai slid to 68 for three in the ninth over.
In his next over, Morkel removed Rohit Sharma (14) who again disappointed with a reckless shot and edging to Dhoni while the crafty off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin lured Ambati Rayudu (11) into a big hit and was caught in the deep.
Thereafter, it was a regular procession as Mumbai batsmen succumbed to ceaseless pressure even as the Super Kings raised their game.
The Super Kings showed a lot of character to shrug off a poor start when they lost opener Murali Vijay (1) and No.3 Suresh Raina (0) in the second over off consecutive deliveries bowled by seamer Dhawal Kulkarni.
It was a brilliant 94-run stand between the consistent Michael Hussey (49) and Subramaniam Badrinath (47) that provided a solid platform for the Super Kings.
With the ball doing a bit in the air, Kulkarni had Vijay edging to lone slip Rohit Sharma and off the very next delivery saw Raina inside-edging to the stumps as the Super Kings slid to 2 for 1.
However, Hussey and Badrinath batted sensibly and reconstructed the innings with a delicate mix of caution and aggression as the Super Kings clawed their way back into game.
The duo took heavy toll of the bowling as they grew in confidence before getting dismissed within six deliveries of each other.
Badrinath fell while attempting a big shot off seamer Kieron Pollard who was otherwise expensive while Hussey too departed in a similar manner, holing out in the deep to present James Franklin a wicket in the only over that the seamer bowled.
With Ravindra Jadeja (1) lasting just two deliveries as he essayed a reckless shot to offer a skier and give Kulkarni his third wicket, it was left to Dhoni and Bravo to provide momentum to the innings.
In the course of the entertaining partnership, Dhoni and Bravo matched each other stroke for stroke some of which were extraordinary in execution. Dhoni slammed Frankling for a 112-metre six while Bravo's best was an outrageous six over cover with both feet in air off Kulkarni.
The pair thus ensured that the Super Kings had more than just a competitive total that at one stage looked unlikely before the Mumbai bowlers lost the plot while yielding to the sheer brilliance of the batsmen.