Vijay fires Chennai into third succesive final

Super Kings to meet Knight Riders in Sunday's title clash.

Eyes Wide Shut: Vijay punches the air after reaching his century in just 51 balls.

Scorecard | Action in images | IPL-V

CHENNAI: It was a wipeout at Chepauk. Murali Vijay's withering century set-up a massive 86-run win for Chennai Super Kings over Delhi Daredevils in the second qualifier on Friday.

Chennai’s rousing triumph, their second in succession after the shellacking of Mumbai Indians in the Eliminator, places them in their third consecutive, and fourth overall, final, which they will contest against Kolkata Knight Riders at the same venue on Sunday evening for a tilt at the most unattainable of records – a hat-trick of IPL titles.

Once Chennai had posted the season’s highest total – 222 – it would have been wishful thinking to expect Delhi to make a fist of it on what is generally considered to be a treacherous track. As it happened, Delhi, opening with Mahela Jayawardene and David Warner, were never in the chase after the early dismissals of Warner and skipper Sehwag disallowed them to gain any sort of momentum.

Daredevils kept up a run-rate in the vicinity of nine runs-per over for the most part, thanks to Jayawardene’s classy 55, but sustaining the tempo - at least through the duration of a super-200 chase - was nigh impossible. The pursuit was wrecked by tumbling wickets, as batsmen attempted in vain to meet the spiraling requirement, only to be arrested with finality in the 17th over when Dhoni ran out last man Varun Aaron.

The double defending champions appear to be on an upswing, and on Friday it wasn’t just good cricket that took them to victory. Daredevils – technically the ‘home’ side by virtue of finishing at the top in the league stage – were on the backfoot even before the game began. They chose to ‘rest’ the most successful bowler in IPL-V, Morne Morkel, and replaced him with debutant (would you believe it!) off-spinner Sunny Gupta, who was murdered for 47 runs in three overs. It did not help that the pacy, allegedly promising Varun went for 63 in his four.

When Sehwag chose to field in a crunch game at a venue where pursuers are disadvantaged by the progressive slowness of the surface, Delhi appeared to be hellbent on making things tough for themselves. If that wasn’t bad enough, Vijay initiated the mayhem by nailing boundaries off the first two balls of Chennai’s innings, and from there the run-rate only went North, and beyond.

It would be futile to delve into individual hits, which were too many to recount. Let it be put on record though that it was Dhoni’s faith in Vijay that paid off. Out of sorts with a niggle in the wrist for the most of the season, Vijay began by hammering boundaries off Sunny and in the company of Michael Hussey took Super Kings to 68 in seven overs.

Hussey was soon out, and Vijay got moving when Sehwag introduced himself in the 11th over – first a six over midwicket (caught by Ross Taylor who overstepped the boundary), then a slash over backward point for four, and then another four and six to long-on and over cow corner respectively.

Daredevils made things worse with their butter fingers. Slowcoach Sehwag at cover was late on a mishit by Raina, and even the usually reliable Warner fluffed Dhoni at long-on. It was relentless hitting all the way as Dhoni and Dwayne Bravo joined the festivities with brutal cameos of their own, as if they were just continuing the riot act from their previous game against Mumbai Indians.

Vijay reached his hundred in 51 balls and was run-out on the last ball of the first innings. It was a remorseless show through and through – a display befitting the most dominating team across the short history of the tournament – and reminiscent of the destruction Vijay had caused in the 2011 IPL final. Can he do it again on Sunday against KKR? Or will Sunil Narine derail the Chennai juggernaut and prevent a hat-trick  of titles? We shall know soon.