Suresh Raina scored a blazing half-century as Chennai Super Kings crushed Royal Challengers Bangalore to storm into the final of the Champions League Twenty20, in Durban, on Friday.
Raina stole the show as he smashed 94 from 48 balls, including six sixes and five boundaries, to lift Chennai to a mammoth 174 for four in 17 overs. In reply,Bangalore finished with 123 for nine in 16.2 overs in a rain-shortened match and lost by 53 runs via the Duckworth-Lewis method.
Manish Pandey provided the lone bright spot for Bangalore, scoring a steady 52 from 44 balls with wickets falling around him at regular intervals.
The ball swung around a great deal and Chennai's pace bowlers made most of the conditions, Doug Bollinger registering the best figures of three for 27 in four overs, while Muttiah Muralitharan claimed two for 38.
The match was reduced to 17 overs a side after a rain break of nearly two hours and 40 minutes. Chennai turned the match around after the rain courtesy Raina and Murali Vijay (41 from 32 balls). The duo added 81 runs in eight overs for the second wicket.
Strike bowler Dale Steyn was unable to bowl in the match after he injured his back while taking the catch to dismiss Michael Hussey.
Electing to bat, Chennai started off with caution, hoping to preserve their wickets, but all their plans were dashed as the heavens opened up.
Chennai had put up 15 for no loss in 2.5 overs before it started raining. The rain lasted for two hours and 40 minutes. When play finally resumed, the match was reduced to a 17-overs-a-side contest, with the fielding restriction reduced to five overs at the start.
Chennai's openers looked to attack right from the re-start. They lost an early wicket as Michael Hussey (6) was brilliantly caught by Dale Steyn, who ran back from mid-off to give Vinay the first wicket of the innings.
Steyn fell to the ground with a thud, injuring his neck and back in the process, and was forced to leave the field.
Vijay kept scoring the boundaries, slamming one each in successive overs, to take the total to 29 for one in five overs.
With Steyn off the field, Bangalore gave the ball to part-timer Virat Kohli but the move backfired. Raina pulled him over square leg for a six and then chipped him over midwicket for the same result, in the sixth over.
Raina, on 18, was dropped by Manish Pandey on the midwicket boundary as he attempted to heave him across the line.
Dillon du Preez also suffered the same fate in the next over. Raina twice despatched a short delivery from the pacer through the midwicket region for another couple of sixes to take the total to 71 for one in eight overs.
Vijay, on 30, also got a reprieve when he skied a lofted shot against du Preez, but substitute fielder B Akhil was unable to judge the catch running in from midwicket. Vijay rubbed salt on du Preez's wounds when he carted the next delivery through the same region for his first six of the innings.
Vinay's fine spell was rewarded with the wicket of Vijay. The Chennai opener, who made 41 from 32 balls, was caught at long-on as he top edged a pull shot.
Off the very next delivery, Raina brought up his half-century in style off just 29 balls, pulling Vinay through midwicket for his fifth six of the innings.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni perished in search for quick runs, bowled by du Preez for 11.
But there was no stopping Raina. The youngster showed scant respect for veteran Anil Kumble, whom he carted for back-to-back boundaries and a six over square leg, in the 15th over.
Cameron White, who used to bowl leg spinners at the start of his career, tried his hand at medium pace, but like everything else even this moved failed for Bangalore.
After giving away 13 in his first over, he once again suffered in his next. Raina started the final over with back-to-back boundaries but missed out on a deserved century despite ending the innings with another four.
He finished unbeaten on a blazing knock of 94 from a mere 48 balls, laced with five fours and six sixes, to take Chennai to an imposing 174 for four in 17 overs.
Vinay Kumar was impressive with the ball, claiming took two for 28 in four overs, but Bangalore's attack failed in the absence of Steyn.
It seemed like a completely different pitch later as Chennai's Albie Morkel and Doug Bollinger were on fire with the new ball. They moved the ball around at will and runs were hard to come by for Bangalore's batsmen.
Rahul Dravid fell for a duck, off the first ball he faced, when he tried to drive Bollinger and was caught by Morkel, diving forward, at mid-off.
Robin Uthappa also came unstuck against Morkel's swing and lobbed an easy catch to the cover fielder as Bangalore slipped to seven for two in three overs.
Ross Taylor also perished cheaply when he tried to pull Bollinger but got a top edge and was caught by Vijay for four.
Virat Kohli, who also struggled with an injury, could not do much damage with the bat before he flicked Laxmipathy Balaji to the deep square fielder for 14.
Cameron White hit Muralitharan down the ground for a six, but the bowler had the last laugh as he got the Australian caught at midwicket for 13.
With wickets falling at the other end, Pandey decided to take charge. The youngster hit Ashwin for a boundary and a six off successive deliveries, in the 12th over.
Bangalore also didn't help their cause as Dillon du Preez (1) went for a quick single but was sent back before he was run out by a direct hit from Ashwin.
Pandey carted Bollinger over midwicket for his second six and off the next ball completed his half-century off 42 balls. But he fell in the same over, bowled by a full delivery from Bollinger after a steady 52 from 44 balls.
Praveen Kumar was foxed by the doosra from Muralitharan and caught at covers off a leading edge for 15.
Vinay Kumar was the final wicket to fall when he hit one straight to the fielder on the midwicket boundary off Ashwin for nine.
With Steyn unable to bat, Bangalore's innings finished on 123 in 16.2 overs to lose by 53 runs.
All the Chennai bowlers were superb, with Bollinger leading the way with a haul of three for 27 and Muralitharan taking two for 38.
IPL champions Chennai will be hoping to complete the double when they take on the winner of Saturday's second semi-final, between South Australia and Warriors, in the title clash.