MS Dhoni was immensely pleased as Chennai Super Kings became the first team to qualify for the IPL 2021 play-offs, after their six-wicket win over the Sunrisers Hyderabad on Thursday. After finishing seventh last season, CSK have started their 2021 campaign with nine wins from their first 11 games.
CSK bowlers put up a disciplined effort to restrict SRH to 134/7, after MS Dhoni had inserted his opponents in. Chasing 135, Ruturaj Gaikwad (45) and Faf du Plessis (41) laid the platform, before Dhoni rolled back years to strike a towering hit into the Sharjah stands to seal a six-wicket win.
The three-time IPL winning captain couldn’t be more pleased with the effort.
"It means a lot because the last time in the post-match presentation I had, I said we want to come back strong... You keep learning out of it, and that is what we have done this year even though we played the first half [of the season] earlier. Every credit must be given to the players and the support staff,” Dhoni said after the game.
“It wasn't a wicket where it was turning or stopping a lot. But there was good bounce. Bowlers varied their pace and length very well... That is what I told them before the start of the game as well. The execution was there.
“Probably some dew (the nature of the wicket changed a bit in the second half)... But I don't think the bounce changed at all.”
The 40-year-old acknowledged the support of the fans over the years, who have been strong behind the team irrespective of the results.
“The fans have been great from the start. I can proudly say on behalf of CSK that we are really proud of the fans," said Dhoni.
Earlier, it was Josh Hazlewood who set the tone with his 3/24 from four overs, which included the key wicket of Jason Roy. The Australian quick acknowledged the support of seniors within the group, especially Dwayne Bravo, who bagged 2/17 from his four overs.
"Very satisfying... Feel like I have been learning every game,” said Hazlewood as he received the Player of the Match award. “Roy is obviously a guy who sets the game for them and comes hard... We have been working really hard as a group. We have obviously been together and trained together. We have some seniors like DJ [Bravo] there."