R Ashwin bowled a virulent opening spell before Suresh Raina played an annihilative 78-run knock to bring Chennai Super Kings back in the semi-final hunt as the hosts scored a comprehensive nine-wicket win over Kolkata Knight Riders in their crucial IPL match here on Tuesday.
The Chennai team with this win, which came with 6.3 overs to spare, has virtually shut the semifinal door on Kolkata, who are languishing at number seven in the points table.
Chennai have jumped to second position from six in the points table and are tied on 12 points with four other teams as the race to the semi-finals is hotting up.
Ashwin's devastating three-wicket spell, in which he polished off the Kolkata top-order, set up the win as all Kolkata could manage on the board in the make-or-break match was just 139 for eight after electing to bat at M A Chidambaram stadium.
Wicket of Mathew Hayden was the lone blot in Chennai's chase as Raina's sublime knock, bejewelled with 11 fours and three sixes, did not give any chance to Kolkata to claw their way back in the match.
Raina's destructive innings came off just 39 balls and the left-hander finished the match in style with a six off Iqbal Abdullah as Chennai overhauled the target in 13.3 overs.
Murali Vijay played an unbeaten 50-run knock and supported Raina well with the duo raising an unbeaten 137-run partnership for the second wicket.
After cheap dismissal of Mathew Hayden (0) in the very first over, Raina ensured Chennai do go the Kolkata way and annihilated the rival attack with his fiery strokes.
The diminutive southpaw began his corrosive knock by hitting Ashok Dinda for three boundaries, of which two were exquisite off-side drives, in the paceman's first over.
Raina treated Kolkata bowlers with utter disdain and each and every Kolkata bowler bore the brunt of his fury.
In just six overs, Chennai had scored 67 runs and the match was very much in their hands.
Raina rattled up his half-century with a massive six off Abdullah after consuming just 24 balls. The fifty was laced with 10 boundaries.
Earlier, Ashwin's (3/16) devastating spin bowling spell punctured Kolkata's hopes of a good start as they lost four wickets at a score of 19 inside fifth over.
It was 73-run fifth-wicket partnership between Manoj Tiwary (27) and Angelo Mathews (48) that pulled Kolkata out of dire straits and gave something to their bowlers to defend.
Tiwary's 31 ball knock ended when he attempted to hit Suresh Raina out of the park but could only find Murali Vijay in the deep.
Mathews got out in the last over and hit two sixes, both off his compatriot Muttiah Muralitharan, and an equal number of fours in his run-a-ball innings.
At the start, after being hit for a massive six by Chris Gayle (7) in the first ball of the third over, Ashwin got his revenge in no time as he had the Caribbean batsmen stumped in the next ball.
Four balls later he had Brendon McCullum (0) caught by Muralithran just behind the short fine leg.
Aussie paceman Dough Bollinger (2/15) added to Kolkata's misery by trapping Ganguly (10), who though was unlucky to be adjudged leg-before by umpire Sanjay Hazare as the TV replays showed the ball would have missed leg stump.
The Kolkata players, sitting in the dug out, had hardly recovered from the shock start that Ashwin returned to cause more ripples by dismissing David Hussey (0) in the first ball of the fifth over to be on a hat-trick.
Huseey's dismissal was a terrific piece of work by Chennai skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni behind the wicket.
Ashwin would have got his hat-trick but for umpire Simon Taufel decision as the Australian ruled out the catch appeal against the new man in Angelo Matthews of Sri Lanka.
TV replays showed that ball indeed touched the gloves of Mathews before landing in the hands of close fielder.
From there on the Sri Lankan made full use of the umpiring error and in company of Tiwary repaired the innings well.