Chennai Super Kings skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni heaped praise on Sri Lankan spin wizard Muttiah Muralitharan as his side reached the IPL semi-finals on Wednesday.
Chennai, the runners-up in the inaugural tournament in 2008, led a disciplined spin attack in a 24-run win over Kings XI Punjab.
The Sri Lankan off-spinner finished with 2-8 off four overs as Chennai restricted Punjab to 92/8 after posting 116/9.
Delhi (18 points) and Chennai (17) have made it to the semi-finals, while Punjab await the result of Thursday’s match between Deccan and Bangalore as the three teams now have 14 points apiece.
Defending champions Rajasthan Royals (13 points), Mumbai Indians (11) and Kolkata (seven) are out of the race.
“I think Muralitharan put pressure on the opposition nicely. They just wanted to play him through because the target was not big and I think that was a mistake,” said Dhoni.
“Because on this kind of track, even the best of spinners, you want to put pressure on them.”
Punjab skipper Yuvraj Singh bemoaned his team’s lack of solid partnerships.
“We’re pretty disappointed because we really needed that win. Unfortunately we couldn’t do it and nobody got going,” said Yuvraj.
“It wasn’t a great wicket to bat on, it was two-paced but we can’t blame anyone really, you’ve got to blame yourself.”
Man-of-the-match Muralitharan was superbly backed by off-spinners Suresh Raina (2-17) and Ravichandran Ashwin (2-13). The trio conceded only 38 runs off 12 overs.
Australian Luke Pomersbach top-scored with 26 in Punjab’s dismal batting display in the last match.
Punjab earlier put in an impressive bowling performance to restrict Chennai to a modest total, with fast bowlers S Sreesanth and Irfan Pathan taking two wickets apiece.
Australian paceman Brett Lee also prevented the Chennai batsmen from scoring freely, conceding only 16 in his four overs.
Chennai added 40 for the opening wicket off just 4.5 overs through India’s Parthiv Patel (32) and Australian George Bailey (15), but lost their way after the openers’ dismissals. Raina was the other main scorer with 20.
Sreesanth got two wickets in three balls when he had S Badrinath (4) caught by Pathan at mid-on and then bowled skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni for two.
Pathan removed New Zealander Jacob Oram (17) and Ashwin (8) to finish with 2-32.