It was what fans in Chennai had waited for years now — M.S. Dhoni, in yellow, wielding his big blade at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium to lay the base for Chennai Super Kings’s victory in the Indian Premier League.
Walking in at 27 for three, Dhoni played one of his classic innings. He ran hard between the wickets at the start before unleashing the big shots towards the end.
His unbeaten 75 off just 46 balls was in danger of being upstaged by Rajasthan Royals’s Ben Stokes but some smart bowling by Dwayne Bravo at the death ensured an eight-run win for the hosts here on Sunday.
Electing to bowl, Royals’ pacers Dhawal Kulkarni and Jofra Archer steamed in with aggression and tied CSK’s top order down with probing lines.
Ambati Rayudu was the first to go, surprised by a slow bouncer from Archer that followed him. The edge was taken by the keeper Jos Buttler. Shane Watson soon cut one straight to Archer at short third-man off Stokes.
Dhoni and Suresh Raina then steadied the ship after Kedar Jadhav was dismissed by Kulkarni. The duo went about setting a platform with a 61-run stand for the fourth wicket with some sensible batting against the spinners.
Rush of blood
Just when he was looking good picking boundaries off the tweakers, Raina played a poor shot trying to give himself room and clear the cover boundary. He only ended up being bowled by a slower one from Jaydev Unadkat for 36.
But Bravo consolidated alongside Dhoni with a 16-ball 27. They smashed 24 runs in the 18th over, bowled by Kulkarni, to give the innings a much-needed momentum.
The skipper seemed to mark out Unadkat as the bowler to target. Dhoni picked his first two boundaries off him before thrashing the left-arm pacer for three sixes off the final three deliveries of the innings. In the final 10 overs CSK made 120, 76 coming off the last five as it made 175.
Royals’s innings stuttered at the start like CSK’s. Deepak Chahar removed Ajinkya Rahane and Sanju Samson while Shardul Thakur accounted for the dangerous Buttler to reduce the visitors to 14 for three.
Steve Smith and Rahul Tripathi then kept Royals in the hunt with a 61-run partnership for the fourth wicket before Imran Tahir turned the tide in the home side’s favour by removing both batsmen in quick succession.
Towards the end, Stokes and Archer played valiant knocks. But with 12 needed off the last over, Bravo produced an excellent final over especially after going for 19 in his previous one. He gave away just three and picked two wickets.
CHENNAI SUPER KINGS
Ambati Rayudu c Buttler b Archer 1 (8b), Shane Watson c Archer b Stokes 13 (13b, 1×4, 1×6), Suresh Raina b Unadkat 36 (32b, 4×4, 1×6), Kedar Jadhav c Buttler b Kulkarni 8 (3b, 2×4), M.S. Dhoni (not out) 75 (46b, 4×4, 4×6), Dwayne Bravo c Kulkarni b Archer 27 (16b, 3×4, 1×6), Ravindra Jadeja (not out) 8 (3b, 1×6); Extras (lb-1, nb-1, w-5): 7; Total (for five wkts. in 20 overs): 175.
FALL OF WICKETS
1-1 (Rayudu, 1.6 overs), 2-14 (Watson 3.4), 3-27 (Jadhav, 4.5), 4-88 (Raina, 13.4), 5-144 (Bravo, 18.3).
Kulkarni 4-0-37-1, Archer 4-1-17-2, Stokes 3-0-30-1, Gopal 3-0-23-0, Gowtham 2-0-13-0, Unadkat 4-0-54-1.
Ajinkya Rahane c Jadeja b Chahar 0 (2b), Jos Buttler c Bravo b Thakur 6 (7b, 1×4), Sanju Samson c Raina b Chahar 8 (10b, 1×4), Rahul Tripathi c & b Tahir 39 (24b, 5×4, 1×6), Steve Smith c sub b Tahir 28 (30b, 2×4), Ben Stokes c Raina b Bravo 46 (26b, 1×4, 3×6), K. Gowtham c Raina b Thakur 9 (8b, 1×6), Jofra Archer (not out) 24 (11b, 1×4, 2×6), Shreyas Gopal c Tahir b Bravo 0 (3b), Jaydev Unadkat 0 (0); Extras (lb-2, nb-1, w-4): 7; Total (for eight wkts. in 20 overs): 167.
FALL OF WICKETS
1-0 (Rahane, 0.2 overs), 2-14 (Samson, 2.6), 3-14 (Buttler, 3.1), 4-75 (Tripathi, 9.6), 5-94 (Smith, 13.2), 6-120 (Gowtham, 16.1), 7-164 (Stokes, 19.1), 8-166 (Shreyas, 19.5).
SUPER KINGS BOWLING
Chahar 4-1-19-2, Thakur 4-0-42-2, Santner 2-0-26-0, Jadeja 2-0-23-0, Tahir 4-0-23-2, Bravo 4-0-32-2.
Toss: Rajasthan Royals.
MoM: M.S. Dhoni.
Chennai Super Kings won by 8 runs.