Murali Vijay was a force of nature at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium on Friday.
The Chennai Super Kings opener's hurricane 58-ball 113 was the decisive performance as the holder outplayed Delhi Daredevils by 86 runs in Qualifier 2 to storm into the final.
M.S. Dhoni's men will meet Kolkata Knight Riders in the title clash here on Sunday.
CSK, invited to bat, sprinted to 222 for five to put Daredevils under enormous pressure on the chase. The visitor succumbed to the stress as CSK, hunting as a pack, struck as regular intervals.
Ben Hilfenhaus prised out the left-handed David Warner with a smart change of pace and Virender Sehwag miscued a pull off Albie Morkel to be brilliantly held by a diving Michael Hussey at mid-on.
Then, Ross Taylor perished at long-on off Dwayne Bravo and the smooth-stroking Mahela Jayawardene (55) was done in by an R. Ashwin delivery that held its line. There were no comebacks for the Daredevils.
Earlier, Vijay batted with freshness and freedom of old. The opener sizzled even as the Daredevils bowling fizzled out.
When Varun Aaron was fuller in length, he was flashed through covers. Andre Russell erred in line and was whipped past mid-wicket. Umesh Yadav was hit on the up and the ball scorched the off-side field.
This was an innings where Vijay's back-swing was a thing of beauty. So was his poise and balance as he struck the ball. The opener picked the length quickly and was ready with his response.
And he utilised the entire dimension of the field; was not premeditated. The assault was savage, not the methods. His first 50 consumed only 28 balls, and the century was reached in just 51 deliveries.
Whether creating room for the inside-out stroke over cover, timing the ball straight or getting his front leg out of the way for the massive blows on the leg-side, Vijay managed to consistently find the fence or clear it.
In all, he smoked 14 boundaries and bludgeoned four sixes.
There were supporting roles from Hussey (20), Suresh Raina (27), Dhoni (23) and a rampant Bravo (33 not out) who blew away the attack in the end overs. But then, it was Vijay who was the innings' destructive common thread through partnerships.
Tactically, Daredevils' ploy to open the bowling with off-spinner Sunny Gupta made sense — the left-handed Hussey walks in at the top of the order for CSK and another southpaw, Raina, surfaces at one-drop — but Vijay dismantled Gupta with fine use of feet.
Reintroduced again and taken to cleaners, Gupta ended up conceding 47 runs in his three overs. .
Did the absence of all-rounder Irfan Pathan — with a split webbing on right hand — force Daredevils to field another multi-dimensional cricketer in Andre Russell ahead of influential seamer Morne Morkel.
The reasons for Morkel not playing veered from being indisposed to being rested for achieving greater balance in the side.
If Morkel was indeed unwell, it was surprising he was seen walking around the ground during play.
And Aaron, spirited and speedy but lacking in experience, leaked runs. The Daredevils fielders were chasing leather for most part.