The stage was set for MS Dhoni to finish yet another game for the Chennai Super Kings (CSK). The two-time champions were struggling at 24 for 3 in chase of 140 against the Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) in the Qualifier 1 of Indian Premier League (IPL) 2018 on Tuesday, May 22 when the chase master walked into bat.
However, much to the disappointment of CSK fans, Dhoni, one of the greatest finishers in modern-day cricket, failed to deliver on the big night as he was undone by a wrong'un from the highly-rated Sunrisers' leg-spinner Rashid Khan.
The mood in the CSK camp was seemingly grim when they were reeling at 62 for 6 in the 13th over of the chase, still needing 78 runs in 45 balls.
SRH had one leg in the final at the point but Super Kings opener Faf du Plessis, it seems, had other ideas. The South African skipper, who was retained by the Men in Yellow, had only played four matches until Tuesday and had been in and out of CSK's playing XI over the 14 league matches.
Even as wickets were falling at the other end at regular intervals, du Plessis held his composure and made sure he stayed till the end.
Du Plessis took time to get going but, just like his captain, found the right time and the right bowlers to go after during the tense chase.
With 43 needed off the last 18 balls, du Plessis, under pressure, took Carlos Brathwaite, who bowled the 18th over, to the cleaners, hitting three boundaries and a six.
Du Plessis hit the winning runs with a Dhoni-esque six, hitting one straight over Bhuvneshwar Kumar's heads in the first over of the final over.
"It was unbelievable — Faf du Plessis finding his inner MS Dhoni there at the backend, batting all the way through, taking it right to the end. He got some great support from Thakur there under pressure. He bowled terribly tonight, but boy he batted like a demon and helped get his team over the line," Smith told Star Sports after CSK's win on Tuesday.
"The key there is he batted through the whole innings but faced only 42 deliveries. He picked his moments very well," Smith added.
Smith happy for du Plessis
Smith also pointed out how du Plessis had been trying to find form and confidence ever since he was ruled out of the six-match ODI series against India earlier this year.
Notably, the South African skipper suffered a lean patch in the highly controversial Test series against Australia, scoring only 175 runs in eight innings.
At CSK, in-form Ambati Rayudu was the first-choice opener for the most part of the season but Dhoni backed the seasoned campaigner in the big match on Tuesday. Notably, du Plessis had opened for CSK in their win over Kings XI Punjab on Sunday, May 20.
"They have searched for the right combination for the overseas players throughout the tournament. Sam Billings has played a little bit, played the extra bowler in a couple of games but in Faf, CSK went for experience and boy did he play well," Smith said.
The Super Kings will be bidding for their third IPL title in the final against the winner of Eliminator 2 at the Wankhede Stadium on Sunday, May 27.