Michael Hussey continued his remarkable run in IPL 2013, leading the Chennai Super Kings to an edge-of-the-seat 14-run win over Kolkata Knight Riders in a replay of the IPL 2012 final.
Hussey was at his ridiculous best, scoring 95 from just 59 deliveries as CSK posted a formidable 200 for three in their 20 overs. KKR made a real fist of the target, with Manvinder Bisla, the match-winner in the final here in Chepauk last year, playing a brilliant 92. However, the defending champions fell just short, finishing on 186 for four, thanks largely to a perfect final over from Chris Morris.
The win takes CSK back up to the top of the points table with seven wins in nine games, while KKR are languishing near the bottom with just three wins in nine.
The chase began with a crazy first over for both sides. Dirk Nannes, returning to the lineup after an injury, first bowled four wides, then overstepped off the second delivery, which led to a free hit.
Nannes cleaned Bisla up off the free hit, and to make matters worse the ball cannoned off the top of off stump and ran away for a boundary. Gautam Gambhir hit a boundary off the last delivery as the first over yielded a handsome 18 runs.
Gambhir (14), though, gifted his wicket away in the third over to Chris Morris. After taking the fast bowler for two boundaries, the KKR skipper inexplicably went for an almighty heave across the line, only to see him timber disturbed.
Gambhir has spent much of IPL 2013 barking at his teammates and his opponents, but maybe it is time for the left-hander to take a look at himself and lead by example.
Brendon McCullum, playing his first match, came and went soon after, chopping on off Mohit Sharma. Jacques Kallis again could not quite accelerate when KKR needed nearly 12 runs an over, and only managed a 20-ball 19, falling to Dwayne Bravo while attempting a paddle over short fine-leg.
Bisla, at the other end, was carrying on from where he left off in the previous innings against Kings XI, reaching his half-century off 43 deliveries before pushing on in the final overs.
With six overs remaining KKR needed 82 runs at 13.66 per over, but as long as Bisla and Eoin Morgan were at the crease, it was still possible.
R Ashwin dropped Morgan in the first ball of 16th over from Nannes, before Bisla and the Irishman combined for 12 runs to take the target to 63 from the last four overs.
The target was whittled down to 29 from 12 balls, with the 18th over from Nannes yielding a massive 21 runs. Hussey, after playing a wonderful innings in the first innings, changed the game again, running out Bisla (92, 61b, 14x4, 2x6) with a direct hit, leaving the KKR opener eight runs short of a hundred.
It was all down to Morgan now, with KKR needing 19 runs off the last over from Morris. The South African bowled a brilliant final over, restricting Morgan and Yusuf Pathan to just four runs as KKR fell agonizingly short.
The first innings was all about Michael Hussey, as Mr Cricket came to the fore yet again in IPL 2013, with good contributions from Wriddhiman Saha and Suresh Raina helping CSK pad the total to 200.
Saha was given the opportunity for the first time in this year's IPL, opening the innings along with Hussey with the out-of-form Murali Vijay sitting out of the game.
The experiment worked perfectly as the duo put together a 103-run partnership, and in good time too, at around ten an over.
Hussey was just at his irrepressible best picking off the KKR bowlers at will, despite struggling with the Chennai heat and humidity. Saha was enjoying himself at the other end as well, taking full toll of Shami Ahmed in the fourth over, and smashing the bowler for two fours and a maximum.
KKR's most dependable bowler -- apart from Sunil Narine of course -- Kallis did not have a great time of it with the ball, conceding 50 runs in his four overs. Hussey rolled up onto his 50 in just the eighth over off a mere 31 deliveries as CSK continued a full-frontal assault on the defending champions KKR.
The home crowd were being treated to some special fireworks, as CSK raced to 100 in just the tenth over. The first ball of the 11th over though, saw Saha (39, 23b, 4x4, 2x6) lose his wicket, holing out to Eoin Morgan at deep midwicket off Rajat Bhatia.
It did not matter too much, as Suresh Raina came into the crease and carried on the run glut along with Hussey. Fifty-five from 5.4 overs later, there was just a little bit of disappointment for CSK, as Hussey fell just five runs short of what would have been a thoroughly deserved hundred.
Hussey (95, 59b, 11x4, 2x6) connected a pull shot off Sunil Narine nicely, but only managed to hit it straight down the throat of Debabrata Das at deep midwicket.
Raina (44, 25b, 4x4, 1x6) and Dhoni added 32 runs, before the former was run out in the final over. Dhoni, though, finished things off with aplomb slamming a six off the final ball to take CSK to 200.