|| AFP ||
Skipper KL Rahul hit an unbeaten 98 to steer Punjab Kings to a convincing six-wicket win over Chennai Super Kings in their final league match of the Indian Premier League on Thursday.
Punjab, who finished with 12 points and need a miracle to make the playoffs, cruised to their victory target of 135 with seven overs to spare as Rahul smashed the winnings six in Dubai.
M.S. Dhoni's Chennai suffered their third defeat in a row after they were the first team to enter the final four in the Twenty20 tournament.
Punjab pace bowlers Arshdeep Singh, a left-arm quick, and Chris Jordan took two wickets each to set up the win after they restricted Chennai to 134-6.
South Africa's Faf du Plessis hit a 55-ball 76 but the rest of the batting fell apart including England import Moeen Ali out for nought off Singh.
Rahul came out firing as he hit Australian fast bowler Josh Hazelwood for a six and two fours in the fourth over to set the tone for the chase.
"Plan was clear, I had the license to go from ball one," said Rahul, who hit 7 fours and 8 sixes to top the IPL batting chart with 626 runs. "Today was one of those days where I could hit every ball."
Shardul Thakur struck twice in the next over but Rahul kept up the charge.
Punjab now rely on results of the other games for a place in the playoff.
Toppers Delhi Capitals and Virat Kohli's Royal Challengers Bangalore have made the final four along side Chennai.
Eoin Morgan's Kolkata Knight Riders stand fourth in the eight-team table and are up against Rajasthan Royals in the second match of the day. They need a win to boost their playoff chances.
Holders Mumbai Indians are also in the race for the playoffs with one league match remaining.