It was perhaps with vengeance that Virender Sehwag batted on Friday at the Wankhede. Out of favour with national selectors for want of runs, he was out to prove a point.
Sehwag could not have found a better stage to show that he still has not lost his touch than in front of the national skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni with a maiden IPL final beckoning Kings XI Punjab.
Two days after the Indian teams for the short ODI tour of Bangladesh and the long Test tour of England were announced with Sehwag not featuring in any of them, the 35-year-old launched an assault on the Chennai Super Kings bowlers like only he can.
Sehwag’s second IPL century, and only the second three-figure mark in IPL-7, set the stage for KXIP earning their first entry to the title round. They defeated two-time winners CSK by 24 runs to earn the right to face Kolkata Knight Riders in the final in Bangalore on Sunday. Sehwag’s 122 (58b, 12x4, 8x6) steered KXIP to 226/6 after CSK captain Dhoni won the toss and sent the opposition in. CSK finished at 202/7 in their 20 overs.
CSK, known to chase tall scores successfully, were in the hunt when Suresh Raina ran amok in his 37-minute stay in the middle with a 25-ball 87 (12x4, 6x6). If Sehwag was brilliant, Raina was almost magical against the KXIP medium-pacers, particularly Parwinder Awana, whom he smashed for 33 runs in the innings’ sixth over. The sequence read as 6, 6, 4, 4, 4+NB, 4, 4.
CSK reached 100/2 after the Power Play overs. KXIP, at the same stage, were 70/0. However, Raina’s dismissal, courtesy direct hit by rival captain George Bailey, in the first ball after the field restrictions were removed, pushed CSK to the back seat. Sanity was restored after six overs of mayhem.
The asking rate for CSK at that stage was like a normal T20 match. But KXIP bowlers managed to keep Brendon McCullum quiet initially, which mounted pressure in the end for them. Smart catches and brilliant run outs helped KXIP immensely. Awana also came back nicely, taking two wickets, those of Ravindra Jadeja and David Hussey, in his next over to seal KXIP’s victory. Even the best of finishers, Dhoni, could do precious little.
The CSK-KXIP matches this season have been high-octane ones, KXIP crossing 200 in all the three, and maintaining a cent per cent success rate. Sehwag set Friday night on fire, though he took a little time initially to gauge the wicket. Sehwag dominated the team’s highest opening stand this season — 110 — and even excelled with the left-handed David Miller, who helped himself to 38 (19b, 5x4, 1x6).
KXIP WON BY 24 RUNS