Indian legend Dhoni leads Chennai to the IPL finals by beating Gujarat

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Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s fairy tale journey continues.

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Widely regarded as one of the game’s greatest captains and wicket-keepers, a packed house at Chennai’s MA Chidambaram Stadium set off fireworks as he led the Chennai Super Kings to a play-off victory over defending champions Gujarat Titans.

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It will be the 10th Indian Premier League Final in Chennai.

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The 41-year-old, who led India to their last World Cup win in 2011, now has a golden opportunity to end his glittering career by lifting the IPL trophy next Sunday at the 132,000-seat Narendra Modi Stadium. And Chennai’s opponents could well be Hardik Pandya’s Titans, who now take on the winner of Wednesday’s second elimination match between Mumbai Indians and Lucknow Super Giants.

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Few expected the Super Kings to dethrone the towering defending champions Gujarat Titans, who topped the IPL table with 15 runs for the second straight season. Thanks to an inspiring opening partnership between New Zealander Devon Conway (40) and Ruturaj Gaikwad (60), Dhoni’s squad scored 172 to seven.

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But Gujarat fought back with impressive speed bowling from Mohit Sharma (two for 31) and Mohammad Shami (two for 28). It wasn’t an impressive total, but on a pitch that was becoming increasingly difficult to bat, Gujarat were sent off on 157, with opening batsman Shubman Gill again taking the lead with 42 carries from 38 balls.

After Gill’s sending off, Afghan Rashid Khan hit two sixes and three fours to give the Titans a slim chance of victory. But after being sent off for 30 balls from 16, the party ended with four Chennai bowlers taking two wickets each.

Dhoni refused to shed light on whether this was indeed his final season.

“I don’t know, I have eight to nine months to decide,” he said. “The auction will take place in December (IPL auction). I will always come to CSK. I haven’t been home since January and I’ve been practicing since March, so we’ll see.”

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The 16th season of this league, which makes the sporting world the envy of the excitement it offers and the millionaires it produces, saw a host of exciting conclusions over the last two months.

At least three young players heralded the arrival of the next generation, while veterans like Virat Kohli, Faf du Plessis, Rashid Khan and Shami showed they are a notch above everyone else.

Yashasvi Jaiswal, Gill and Rinky Singh took their chance with both hands and became household names. Gill has cemented his status as the opening slugger for India and it’s only a matter of time before Jaiswal and Rinky earn their first caps.

They deserve it but getting into the India national team is not a piece of cake as politics plays a big part. Take Samson Sanju, captain of the Rajasthan Royals who was supposed to be in the national squad but for some reason was given the cold shoulder.

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Among the bowlers who starred this season were three leg breakers. Titans’ Rashid Khan, Royals’ Yuvendra Chahal and Mumbai Indians’ Piyush Chawla showed their magic, while Titans’ Shami was the most incisive sailor.

There were two talented teams that ended up bottom, much to the disappointment of their numerous fans. Sunrisers Hyderabad, coached by West Indies legend Brian Lara, and Delhi Capitals, coached by former Australian top player Ricky Ponting and captained by Australian opening batsman David Warner, who hit six half centuries.

No idea what made Hyderabad bring in Lara, who may have been one of the best batsmen but has little or no coaching qualifications.

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After two months of watching monstrous sixes sail into the stands and crisp shots repeatedly penetrating the perimeter lines, the global focus is on the traditional game – Test cricket.

First up is the much-anticipated clash between Australia and India at The Oval in London, which begins on June 17 and will see the World Test champions crowned. Both countries are striving for their first test title.

Then comes a five-set match between old rivals Australia and England that is a staple with fans of both countries. We’ve already seen some England players savagely flutter gums, most notably fast bowler Stuart Broad, who laid out his two take on how the visitors are being demolished by the reimagined England with its super-charged ‘Bazball’ approach.

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Broad, one of the most unpopular players on the Test circuit, was part of the squad that lost 4-0 in their last clash with the Ashes, but England have undergone a drastic change since then with the appointment of Ben Stokes as captain and New Zealander Brendon McCullum.

The two have instilled a sense of quick, calculated risky batting and a commitment to taking wickets. England’s new approach was dubbed ‘Bazball’ after McCullum’s nickname.

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