Four-time Indian Premier League winners Chennai Super Kings qualified for their 10th final with a 15-run win over holders Gujarat Titans in the first qualifier at Chepauk last night.
Ruturaj Gaikwad and Devon Conway shared an 87-run opening stand before a late flurry from Ambati Rayudu and Ravindra Jadeja helped Chennai post 172-7 after Gujarat skipper Hardik Pandya won the toss and elected to bowl first.
The Chepauk stadium was a sea of yellow as the Chennai crowd roared on Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s side but they were silenced in the second over when Gaikwad chipped tamely to mid-wicket off Darshan Nalkande.
However, the opener was reprieved as replays showed Nalkande had overstepped and it proved a costly error.
Gaikwad hit the next ball for six and proceeded to play the match’s defining innings, reaching his half-century from 36 balls as he put on 87 with Conway.
But pacer Mohit Sharma provided the breakthrough for Gujarat after bowling out Gaikwad for 60, while Conway (40) was dismissed by Mohammed Shami.
However, Ajinkya Rahane (17) along with Ambati Rayudu (17) and Ravindra Jadeja (22) added a quickfire 56 runs.
Chennai’s Deepak Chahar then claimed the crucial wickets of Wriddhiman Saha (12) and Shubman Gill (42), while Jadeja and Maheesh Theekshana picked up four wickets for 46 runs as Gujarat’s batting order collapsed.
Gill went past 700 runs in a magnificent IPL season but even he struggled for fluency before falling.
Gill’s 42 runs off 38 balls were in vain as the likes of captain Pandya, Dasun Shanaka, David Miller, Vijay Shankar and Rahul Tewatia were all dismissed under 20 runs.
A disciplined bowling attack led by Chahar, Theekshana, Jadeja and Matheesha Pathirana got two wickets each.
Rashid Khan hit three fours and two sixes late on to give the Titans a glimmer of hope but Chennai held on comfortably and took the final wicket with the last ball of the match.
Gujarat will have another shot at reaching the final when they take on the winners of today’s second qualifier between Mumbai Indians and Lucknow Super Giants.
Chennai are searching for a record-equalling fifth title and their second in three years.