Indian T20 League: Gaikwad, Uthappa steer Chennai into final

Ruturaj Gaikwad and Robin Uthappa hit half-centuries, while MS Dhonii struck three fours in the final over to help Chennai beat Delhi by four wickets in Qualifier 1 and seal a place in the final of the Indian T20 League 2021 edition. The Dhonii-led side reached a record ninth final in 12 editions. Delhi, meanwhile, will await the winner of the Eliminator clash between Bangalore and Kolkata for another shot at the final.

The three-time winners, who opted to bowl first, were set a target of 173 by Delhi courtesy of a quickfire 60 from opener Prithvi Shaw and an unbeaten fifty by Rishabh Pant, who stitched together 83 off 50 balls with Shimron Hetmyer. Josh Hazlewood was the pick of the bowlers for Chennai. The Aussie pacer removed Shikhar Dhawan and Shreyas Iyer in the powerplay. Moeen Ali gave away 27 off his quota of four overs and sent Axar Patel, who was promoted to No 4, back to the pavilion.

Chennai lost Faf du Plessis in the fourth ball of the run chase. But Gaikwad and Uthappa set up a century stand for the second wicket and put the franchise in a commanding position. Three wickets in quick succession brought Delhi back into the game. Tom Curran, playing his first match in the UAE leg, grabbed Uthappa and Shardul Thakur in the 14th over, while Iyer and Kagiso Rabada combined to dismiss Ambati Rayudu for just 1. Chennai, who needed 13 from six balls, lost Moeen in the last over. However, the ever-reliable Dhonii saw his team home with two balls to spare.

Shaw puts on a show

The Delhi opener struck his first half-century in the UAE leg, scoring a 34-ball 60. He gave a tough time for the Chennai pacers as he made 11 runs in Hazlewood’s second over and hammered four fours off Deepak Chahar, who has dismissed him six times in the league. The 21-year-old didn’t show any mercy to his Ranji teammate Shardul Thakur. He clobbered two sixes and saw the Chennai skipper drop a difficult chance behind the stumps.

A boundary off Ravindra Jadeja helped him bring up his tenth fifty in the Indian T20 League. It took him just 27 balls and was also his second against Chennai this season. Jadeja had the final laugh when Shaw holed out to Du Plessis at long-off. Delhi was four down for 80, with 75% of their runs scored by the Mumbai-born batsman.

Uthappa ends a long wait

Despite scoring over 4500 runs in the Indian T20 League, Uthappa had to wait till Chennai’s 13th game to find a place in the playing 11. The 35-year-old found himself under pressure after scoring just 21 runs from two innings. But he hit two fours off his first three deliveries. Uthappa also managed to score a boundary in Rabada’s opening over.

Avesh Khan, who bowled the final over before the powerplay, was taken to the cleaners by Uthappa. The Delhi pacer conceded 20 runs in the over. It allowed the Chennai batters to focus on rotating the strike and keeping the asking rate below nine. Uthappa reached his half-century in 35 balls. It was his first fifty in two years and couldn’t have come at a better time for his team. He struck consecutive fours off Ravichandran Ashwin before being dismissed caught at the boundary line by Iyer.

Gaikwad, Pant & Curran

He lost his opening partner early and saw his team lose three wickets for just six runs after a century stand. But Gaikwad was calm. The 24-year-old batted till the 19th over and would have been delighted that his 50-ball 70 didn’t go in vain. With just one game remaining in the season, Gaikwad needs another 24 runs to overtake KL Rahul’s tally of 626 runs.

Pant played a crucial role in setting up a challenging total. The Delhi captain and Hetmyer added 58 runs in the last five overs of the innings. After scoring just 12 runs off the first 15 balls, Pant managed 39 from the next 20. Meanwhile, Curran, too, had a good outing. The pacer kept Delhi’s chances alive with the wickets of Uthappa and Shardul. He dismissed his England teammate Moeen in the first ball of the last over. However, Dhoni used his experience to pip the 26-year-old and his franchise.

Delhi 172/5 in 20 overs (P Shaw 60, R Pant 51; J Hazlewood 2/29)

Chennai 173/6 in 20 overs (R Gaikwad 70, R Uthappa 63; T Curran 3/29)

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