Dhoni leads by example to take the Super Kings into the play-offs with a 33-run victory.
IPL: Chennai step on woeful Delhi to climb to the top
Toss Chennai, chose to bat
Chennai Dhoni 58 n.o, Vijay 31; Yadav 2-26, van der Merwe 1-19
Delhi Warner 44; Morkel 3-32, Bravo 2-14, M Sharma 2-18, Ashwin 2-19
Man of the match MS Dhoni (Chennai)
The hallmark of Chennai Super Kings has been their ability to find a hero for every situation. On a day when the in-form Michael Hussey and Suresh Raina did not come into their own, it was MS Dhoni's turn to announce himself in grand style, as he has often done before.
A blistering, unbeaten 35-ball 58 helped Chennai to 168 for four before Delhi, almost predictably, capsized midway through the chase to finish on 135 for nine. That meant Chennai finished their home games at the MA Chidambaram Stadium with a win that took them to the top of the Indian Premier League standings.
Kings XI Punjab's win over Royal Challengers Bangalore earlier in the day meant that Chennai were through to the play-offs even before the match began. But given the stiff competition for the top two slots, there was no let-down in intensity.
Murali Vijay (31) and Hussey (26) came out with guns blazing, putting on 61 for the opening wicket to set the tone for the innings.
Vijay looked particularly aggressive, charging the spinners at will, before being run out courtesy of Ben Rohrer's direct hit from point in the eighth over.
That appeared to have an effect on Hussey, who mistimed a pull to Virender Sehwag at short fine leg soon after as Chennai lost a bit of momentum. When Raina drove one into the hands of David Warner in the next over, they found themselves precariously placed at 74 for three in the 12th over.
Enter Dhoni, and the transformation. He was cautious initially, but soon upped the ante in trademark style. He took a special liking to Ashish Nehra and Siddharth Kaul, who between them, conceded 74 off eight overs.
Along the way, Dhoni found an ally in Ravindra Jadeja (24), with whom he shared a 57-run stand that restored normality before the final onslaught fetched 98 off the last ten overs.
For Delhi to even come close, they needed the top order, led by Sehwag, to fire, or at least build two substantial partnerships to make a late charge. Those hopes were quelled by the impressive Mohit Sharma, who dismissed Sehwag for a duck off the second delivery of the innings. From there on, Delhi were in free-fall.
Unmukt Chand played across the line to a slower delivery, Johan Botha and Kedhar Jadhav were beaten for pace while trying to pull, and Rohrer flicked one to square leg.
Warner, fighting the oppressive heat and humidity, kept them in the hunt with attacking strokes that took him to 44 off just 37 balls, but with next to no support, last season's table-toppers slumped to an 11th defeat in 14 matches.
Shashank Kishore is a subeditor at Wisden India.
Follow us @SprtNationalUAE