After steering Chennai Super Kings into their seventh IPL final with an unbeaten 67 off 42 balls, Faf du Plessis said the key to his innings was seeing off Rashid Khan's spell. Rashid led Sunrisers Hyderabad's defence of 139 by taking the wickets of MS Dhoni and Dwayne Bravo while conceding only 11 in his four overs.
Du Plessis came into Tuesday's Qualifier having had a quiet season thus far, with 85 runs from four innings at 21.25. He said he looked to pep himself up before the game by thinking of his past performances.
"It's nice to contribute since I haven't played much," du Plessis said at the post-match presentation. "Yesterday, I was just reflecting on my past games, and took some confidence from that mentally. I just entered the changing room now, and asked the boys, 'how did we win this, guys?'
"Sometimes the game seems out of reach, but you keep sticking in. But Shardul [Thakur] came in and hit some boundaries, and everything went our way. Rashid was a real handful, so just happy to cross the line. Rashid was tough to pick, so hard to take him on. So try to get through him as much as you can."
Later, in a separate interview with Star Sports, du Plessis had more words of praise for Rashid, who is set to make his Test debut when Afghanistan play their inaugural Test in Bengaluru next month.
"Rashid's the best legspinner in the world," du Plessis said. "He's going to pose a lot of challenges when he comes to Test cricket. He will win you games on his own, and that's why you have to respect his bowling. We watch a lot of footage, but he's still so hard to pick."
When Rashid completed his quota of overs, CSK were 93 for 7 and needed 47 from 24 balls, with du Plessis batting on 39 off 33 balls. A quiet over from Siddarth Kaul left CSK needing 43 off 18, which was when du Plessis exploded, hitting Carlos Brathwaite for three fours and a six in an 18th over that went for 20 runs.
Du Plessis said he waited to target Brathwaite specifically, since his changes of pace weren't too stark compared to some of Sunrisers' other bowlers. With Shardul Thakur contributing an unbeaten 15 off 5 as well, CSK got home with five balls to spare.
"Me, personally, in that situation, I felt that I needed to take all the risk against Carlos," du Plessis said. "His slower ball is not that much different than his [normal] pace. So even if he does [bowl a slower one], you can trust your [bat-] swing, so that's what I was hoping for. And that's the over we both targeted. And Shardul came in there and just smoked a few towards the end."
Even though du Plessis found Rashid difficult to hit, he found life easier against the left-arm spin of Shakib Al Hasan. He said the momentum began swinging CSK's way when he hit a four and a six off Shakib in the 14th over.
"Mentally, that time came when Shakib was bowling from that end. Because Rashid was bowling beautifully so you couldn't get him away. And then after seeing three-four balls off Shakib, I saw the ball wasn't turning, so I told the other guy, 'let's go for 12-15 off this over.' And that kickstarted the innings, the momentum. Before that I was going for ones and twos, but after that I felt it was coming off the middle."
Du Plessis has been Dhoni's team-mate at CSK since 2012 - and at Rising Pune Supergiant when CSK were suspended in 2016 and 2017. He said he has sensed a great desire in his captain this season to win the IPL once again.
"Haven't spoken to MSD yet, but what I can tell you, is having joined back at CSK and played with him for Rising Pune Supergiant last time, you can really say he wants it this time. He's really proud of this team, and he's like the big brother of the team, so it's nice that most of us are back here. Great to have that camaraderie in the ground."
After the player auction in January, CSK came in for criticism for picking a large number of players in their 30s - including du Plessis - and he said the flip side of picking so many older players was the experience they brought to the table.
"The vision that the franchise had, of keeping experienced players, was something a lot of people questioned," he said. "We have a few old bodies in the team, but in big moments you want experience there. There's been a lot of occasions - go back to Dwayne Bravo early on in the season [against Mumbai Indians], so it's nice we have so many experienced players to rely on. Chennai's been to 7-8 finals, so the experience of big games, MS understands what to ask of the players. We're playing our best cricket at the moment."
Dhoni reiterated this point when speaking about du Plessis' innings after the match.
"Faf's innings is where experience counts," he said. "It's not easy to not play a lot of games, but I always say you need to train your mind as well. That's where the experience comes in. You visualise what your role is, how you can contribute, and Faf has been brilliant."
Asked about the secret behind CSK reaching so many finals, Dhoni said it came from the dressing-room atmosphere.
"We have been a very good team over the past ten seasons, but it's more about the dressing-room atmosphere. And you can't do that without the players and the support staff. And if atmosphere is not good, then players go to different directions. But somehow, we have managed to keep our boys on track."