Stephen Fleming’s mantra as coach of Chennai Super Kings has been ‘consistency in selection’. And it was hard to argue with that after Tuesday’s game when an out-of-form Shane Watson repaid the faith with a match-winning knock of 96 (53b, 9×4, 6×6) as the home side defeated Sunrisers Hyderabad by six wickets to maintain its unbeaten run at the MAC Stadium this season.
Chasing 176 for victory, Watson and Suresh Raina, who too has been struggling this season, struck form to help Super Kings post their eighth victory. This should help them secure a playoff berth.
Watson, similar to what he did in the final against the same team last year, started off slowly, even playing out a maiden in the first over bowled by Bhuvneshwar Kumar. He showed how dangerous he could be as he pummelled the Sunrisers bowlers all over the park.
Rashid Khan, in particular, was at the receiving end of Watson’s fury, conceding 30 (including three fours and two sixes) off the 13 balls he bowled to the Australian.
After losing Faf du Plessis early, Raina waded into Sandeep, hammering 22 off the sixth over, with four boundaries and a six. This sparked the Super Kings innings to life before Watson took charge. The Australian displayed his brute power as he swept, pulled and lofted the Sunrisers bowlers, clearing the ropes with ease.
Turning point: M.S. Dhoni’s smart glove-work was key to the dismissal of David Warner.
It did not help Sunrisers’ cause that Jonny Bairstow dropped Watson on 33 off Sandeep.
Earlier, asked to take strike, the Hyderabad side lost Bairstow in Harbhajan’s first over, but David Warner and Manish Pandey put the side in a commanding position with a 115-run partnership for the second wicket.
Pandey, returning to the side after being dropped for three games, took the attack to the Super Kings bowlers. While the Australian continued his sparkling form with another half-century — a sedate one, though, by his standards — it was Pandey who turned aggressor.
The Karnataka batsman, relishing the opportunity to bat at No. 3, smashed an unbeaten 83 off just 49 deliveries. Pandey showed his intentions right from the first ball, lofting Harbhajan for a four and a six — his first scoring shots. A bright feature of his batting was that he tried to clear the straight boundary as much as possible.
For the first time at home, the Super Kings spinners were under attack, with the usually economical Imran Tahir and Ravindra Jadeja, too, going for runs. Pandey raced to his fifty off just 25 balls with a deft shot through fine-leg off Dwayne Bravo.
At 103 for one in 11 overs, Sunrisers looked poised for a tall score. However, Harbhajan did the trick, having Warner stumped. Bravo and Chahar gave away just 24 off the last three overs as Pandey, Vijay Shankar and Yusuf Pathan failed to get the big shots going.
With Watson finding his touch again, 175 proved inadequate.