In the preview to the second semi-final between Chennai Super Kings and Kings XI Punjab it was mentioned how well-matched the two teams were, and hence a close contest was expected. At Hyderabad though, Chennai's experience of big matches came to the fore, against a strong Punjab side that could not handle the Chennai onslaught. The former IPL and CLT20 champs were completely ruthless in their display, once again demonstrating their ability to peak at the right time, having just sneaked into the final four at the last moment. As for Punjab, they need to learn to perform better in the business end of the tournament.
There were two key factors which clinched the deal for Chennai. First, they displayed their versatility with the bat by recovering exceptionally in spite of having lost early wickets. Dwayne Smith, Brendon McCullum and Suresh Raina were expected to do the bulk of the scoring under pressure. Their early losses would have impacted Chennai significantly. However, this is where the team's batting versatility came to the fore. Dwayne Bravo brought all his experience into play and guided the team through the rough ride. His partnership with Faf du Plessis was crucial in resurrecting the innings, but it were his massive blows towards the end after Chennai again collapsed that made a massive difference.
The second factor that played a huge role in Chennai making another final was their excellent bowling at the top of the order. Thanks to Bravo, they may have put up a challenging total on the board, but Punjab have overhauled bigger totals in the past, and which is why Chennai needed a good start. The long-forgotten Ashish Nehra and Mohit Sharma stuck to their tasks very well in the game, and once they dismantled the top half, things became rather one-sided. Significantly, Chennai bowlers did not allow Punjab to recover. Chennai had been a similar position earlier in the day, but prospered under pressure.
Without doubt, Punjab's batsmen must take a major share of the blame for the team's loss. Batting was always the department that was going to win them the game, but they fumbled under pressure, in South African style. Punjab have a seemingly never ending batting line up, but on the day, it did not matter as, one batsman after the other, kept returning to the pavilion. The early losses of Virender Sehwag, Manan Vohra, Wriddhiman Saha and Glenn Maxwell impacted them severely. These are the men who had set up improbable wins in the past.
In spite of having lost their major batsmen, Punjab could still have made a match of it. They had two experienced big hitters in David Miller and skipper George Bailey. They had it in them to do the repair job that Bravo and du Plessis undertook for Chennai. But, this is where Punjab's weakness against slow bowling came to the fore. Just like Hobart Hurricanes earlier in the day, Punjab also could not break the shackles set up by Chennai's slow bowlers. And, in the end, they were left to reflect on what was an abject surrender.
--By A Cricket Analyst