When Mumbai Indians' Harbhajan Singh hit last ball of the innings for a six in Wednesday's Eliminator, Mahendra Singh Dhoni's gaze was fixed on the trajectory of the ball. Though he stood expressionless, he might have been wondering about that many more runs he would be needed to score should he be needed to bat.
However, such has been Chennai Super Kings' batting might that they chased down a total of 173 with relative ease. And, Dhoni, one of the greatest finishers in the game, was not required to bat though he sat in the dugout with two bats in his hand, ready for the challenge.
Friday may not be that easy though. For, two-time champions CSK run into Kings XI Punjab in the second qualifier of playoffs with the winner earning the right to face Kolkata Knight Riders in Sunday's final in Bangalore.
KXIP, seeking a maiden entry to the final, have been the flavour of the season and the big-hitting Glenn Maxwell, a revelation. But Maxwell has not come good in the last four matches scoring 14, 2, 0 and 6. His scores preceding the poor run were three scores of 90s and an 89, KXIP have lost twice.
Though they may not be heavily reliant on the Victorian as they have others who have come good — right from opener Manan Vohra, Wriddhiman Saha, David Miller and captain George Bailey — Maxwell does hold the key if they are to stop CSK from marching ahead.
On the other hand, CSK have been there and done it. Five finals in the previous six editions speaks of the tremendous consistency in their results. They know how to go about their business. They are mightily experienced in such situations, though they did not have to take the back-door entry into the final except on one occasion – in 2012 when they won the Eliminator and Qualifier 2 before losing to KKR in the title clash. Can 2014 be the year to avenge that defeat?
KXIP skipper Bailey would do well to put to use all that he has learnt when he was warming the bench while he was a CSK player in the previous seasons. It is no secret that he has admired Dhoni's captaincy and learnt the trade secrets.
One thing is common between them, though. Bailey bats fearlessly in the death overs and more often comes good, something that Dhoni has been doing repeatedly, match after match, season after season, be it in yellow IPL or in blue Team India colours.
The team that holds nerve will come out on top. Like India's stop-gap ODI captain and man of the match in CSK's victory over MI the previous night, Suresh Raina said, "Whoever panics is going to lose the battle. We have to go out there and express ourselves, we need to look to start strongly. The important thing is that we have handled pressure really well over the last seven years. When you know you have a captain like Dhoni and a coach like (Stephen) Fleming, it helps. Whoever handles pressure well in T20 wins."