MS Dhoni hit 63 not out off 31 balls to set up an easy 18-run victory for Chennai Super Kings in their Indian Premier League (IPL) encounter against Delhi Daredevils in Chennai last night.
Chasing 176 for four, Delhi could reach only 158 for six, thanks to a superb bowling effort from Ravichandran Ashwin (2-19).
Batting first after winning the toss, Chennai overcame the early dismissal of Michael Hussey - trapped lbw by Irfan Pathan - when Murali Vijay and Suresh Raina combined for a 35-run stand.
Fast bowler Varun Aaron - in for Morne Morkel - applied the brakes thereafter with a tidy spell and also saw off Raina (14).
Aaron could have had Vijay soon if stand-in captain James Hopes had held on to a catch off Vijay at cover. The opener was dropped once again in the next over, but could not make most of the chances as he holed out to deep square leg off Ajith Agarkar for a 33-ball 55.
At 68 for three after 10 overs, Chennai needed a blitz from Dhoni to put up a competitive total. The captain did not disappoint the home crowd as a flurry of boundaries and sixes pushed up the run rate quickly.
It was mayhem towards the end as Dhoni and Badrinath blasted 37 off the last two overs and their 96-run stand off 56 balls also helped them add another half-century against their name.
Badrinath fell in Pathan's last over, but Dhoni kept up the heat by smashing two boundaries off the remaining two balls as Chennai finished at 176 for four.
Naman Ojha's early blitz raised hopes of a chase, but once the stand-in opener was gone for a 14-ball 24, the batting lost direction.
David Warner's poor form in the IPL continued when, on 21, he lifted Dwayne Bravo straight to Vijay.
Venugopal Rao (30) and Pathan (44 not out) carried on for a while but could not repeat the earlier heroics of Dhoni and Badrinath.
Delhi eventually finished at 158 for six, but with today's victory Chennai pipped Mumbai Indians to top the league table and improved on their home record (10 wins out of 11 games). Dhoni summed up Chennai's attitude when he said, "it is the kind of belief which we have got in the end."
Hopes admitted Dhoni's knock made all the difference. "After 15-16 overs, we were still in front, but Dhoni was devastating," he said.