Mumbai, May 23: Coach Stephen Fleming says Faf du Plessis, who single-handedly guided Chennai Super Kings into the final of Indian Premier League's 11th edition, was played in the first qualifier because of an injury to Sam Billings. Coming back after a two-year ban, two-time champions CSK last night pulled off a thrilling two-wicket win over Sunrisers Hyderabad to make the seventh final of the cash-rich league, with du Plessis' unbeaten 67-run knock leading the chase.
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"Sam got hurt in the last game. He fell awkwardly on his hip and it has been quite bruised. He probably could've played if he was pushed but he was uncomfortable. So we just took that opportunity to keep Faf in the side, having introduced him in the last game. We've got different combinations that we can use and today I'm very happy that Faf was able to contribute the way he did," said Fleming after the match.
Chasing a modest target of 140, CSK were down in the dumps at 92 for seven before Du Plessis (67 off 42 balls) engineered a stunning comeback. "The player today who hasn't played that much came out on a bigger stage of the tournament today and for Faf to do that is testament to his skills set and his mindset as well. And Faf is like a Ferrari car, he needs a lot of attention. So, it is always going to take time when he is over there.
"Sometimes dumb luck... you just pick the guys at the right time and they just play an innings for the team that means so much and we saw one of those today," the former New Zealand skipper explained, adding, "Sam's injury made it pretty clear that Faf at 1 and Rayudu at 4 was the way to go."
The Qualifier 1 against the table toppers was only the fifth game that du Plessis played this season. The South Africa captain grabbed the opportunity with both hands.
"The game obviously has its ups and downs and turns but we have had a season where we have won from unwinnable positions. Today was one of those, it seems. It's been individual players who have got us out of trouble and different players all the time. Of course, MS (Dhoni) is a usual culprit," Fleming noted.
The former New Zealand captain also heaped praise on young South Africa pacer Lungi Ngidi, who returned figures of 1-20 and accounted for rival opener Shreevats Goswami.
"He (Ngidi) has provided a spearhead for MS and it's improved the first six overs. So we're getting wickets in the front, Deepak Chahar is also swinging the ball.
"The two of them have provided opportunities to take wickets and that's allowed our other bowlers to come into the game a bit more, so he's (Ngidi) been quite instrumental, certainly reducing the scores we're chasing," added Fleming.
Fleming described his team's performance as just about good. "We were okay today, Ngidi was great, (Ravindra) Jadeja was very good but it was an okay performance. We have been better, so I guess that's what we'll look at over the next four days," he said.
Fleming also admitted that slow over rate has been a problem this IPL and blamed the hot and humid weather for teams taking too much time to get things moving.
"We can all feel how humid it is. Late season games in Mumbai and Chennai are going to be longer, because the players do suffer. If a player bats, say for a period of time, they are under some stress," Fleming said.
Quite a few teams and captains have already been fined for slow over rate this season. "But it can be sped up, there is time wasting in cricket in general, but that's a separate discussion. Slow over rates are killing the game, from Test cricket down. So it does have to be policed better, and players have to oblige a bit more," said Fleming, a former captain of New Zealand.
The Super Kings coach said Tuesday (May 22) was the only time in the season that his team was slow in the over-rate front. "We're pretty good. That is probably the only game where we've been a bit slow. It's just a question for our team, because I felt we were off mentally. And when you're wandering around without purpose, you take more time."
"We were seven minutes down at the drinks break and it was enough for me to crack the whip a little. So we were just off a bit today. And that contributes to the slowness of the game. We don't want to do that and we certainly want to improve," Fleming said.