The equation was steep but simple for Kings XI Punjab. They had to win by a minimum of 53 runs to leapfrog to the fourth playoff spot, but Lungi Ngidi's brutal spell of 4 for 10, followed by a patient innings from Suresh Raina slashed Kings XI's hopes and knocked them out of the IPL. The result secured Rajasthan Royals' fourth place in the playoffs.
The evening started with Kings XI on 12 points, but with a net run rate of -0.490. Royals - who finished their league stage on Saturday - were already on 14 points but with a much better net run rate (-0.250), forcing Kings XI to chase a big win against Chennai Super Kings.
But that wasn't to be as CSK recovered from 27 for 3 to thwart Kings XI's challenge. After posting 153, Kings XI needed to restrict CSK to 100 or under, but were knocked out as soon as the hosts went past that score in the 15th over. Eventually, Raina steered CSK to a comfortable five-wicket win, and ensured they finished second on the points table.
Sunrisers Hyderabad (first) and Kolkata Knight Riders (third) are the other two teams to join CSK and Royals in the playoff.
Ngidi, Chahar rattle Kings XI with seam and swing
Asked to bat, Kings XI needed a big total to stay alive, but lost Chris Gayle, Aaron Finch and KL Rahul in their first four overs. It wasn't the pressure that Kings XI were under, but fiery spells of fast bowling from Ngidi and Deepak Chahar that stalled the visitors.
The surface at the MCA Stadium had both seam and swing on offer early on, and Ngidi struck early when Gayle gloved a leg-side delivery to MS Dhoni. Finch was squared up by Chahar next over, when he edged a delivery that was angling in, finding the safe hands of Raina at first slip. KL Rahul - Kings XI's highest run-scorer of the season - was out to Ngidi at the end of the fourth over, when he shouldered arms to a short-of-length delivery, but the angle resulted in the ball clipping the top of off stump in spectacular fashion.
Kings XI began a recovery in the form of a 60-run partnership for the fourth wicket between Manoj Tiwary (35) and David Miller (24), but Ravindra Jadeja and Dwayne Bravo dismissed both batsmen in consecutive overs. Karun Nair fought on, scoring a 26-ball 54, but with no other batsman for company, all Kings XI could score was 153.
CSK recover after early wobble; Dhoni does a Bradman
Kings XI weren't going down without a fight, and that was on display when Ambati Rayudu edged Mohit Sharma to the keeper for his first single-digit score of the season. Ankit Rajpoot then delivered a superb double-wicket maiden that forced CSK to stay on their toes. His swing bowling made Faf du Plessis edge to slip and Sam Billings lost his off sump that put the hosts on the back foot. With CSK three down inside five overs, Kings XI were in with a sniff.
But just how Don Bradman did in the New Year's Ashes Test of 1937, Dhoni opted to shuffle his batting order, and chose to send his lower-order batsmen in before himself, Bravo and Jadeja.
With Raina for company, Harbhajan Singh scored 19 and Chahar smashed a 20-ball 39 to take CSK beyond the 100-run mark. Chahar's wicket in the 17th over brought Dhoni out amid loud cheers, and an unbeaten 45-run partnership with Raina took CSK home with five balls to spare. In classic Dhoni style, he finished the game with a six.