Harbhajan Singh roared back to form on Saturday with a three-wicket haul that rocked the top-order of the Royal Challengers Bangalore in the IPL 2019 opener at Chepauk.
MS Dhoni’s decision to play three specialists spinners paid rich dividends for the home side as they made the most of the turning track at the MA Chidambaram stadium to bamboozle the clueless RCB batsmen.
Dhoni opened the attack with Harbhajan Singh bowling the second over. The off-spinner repaid the faith of his captain as he got rid of Virat Kohli, Moeen Ali and AB de Villiers in consecutive overs which broke the back of the RCB batting lineup.
Imran Tahir (3 for 9) and Ravindra Jadeja (2 for 15) then took care of the rest of the RCB batsmen.
Harbhajan bowled his full quota of 4 overs in one spell which made all the difference in the final outcome of the match as CSK bowled out RCB for the joint sixth-lowest total in IPL history.
Harbhajan was wicketless for 7 matches since he dismissed Rajasthan Royals’ Ben Stokes on May 11, 2018. Last season, Harbhajan got just 7 wickets in 13 matches.
But in the new season, he destroyed RCB with three top wickets. Harbhajan’s IPL tally now stands at 137 wickets.
The 38-year-old veteran India cricketer dedicated his man-of-the-match award to his family after the game.
“It is nice to be out there on the park and it is a special one for me. I would like to give a lot of credit to my wife and daughter for this award. You can’t ask for a better start – they had a lot of left-handers and (Stephen) Fleming told me that I would be playing and bowling in the powerplay.
“It was nice to get a wicket up front and it gets easier after that. Great feeling to get the Man of the Match in the first match and hopefully we can carry on from here. Imran (Tahir) bowled really well in the latter part after I bowled out; it was nice to get Virat’s and AB’s wickets.
“How often does an off-spinner get their wickets! It is a nice challenge and it is nice to sit on this side and take this award,” Harbhajan said at the post-match presentation ceremony.
CSK bowled out RCB for 70 in 17.1 overs and then chased down the target with 7 wickets and 14 balls to spare to register its seventh successive win over the Bangalore-based team.
Royal Challenger Bangalore haven’t defeated the yellow brigade since 2014. The head-to-head record between these two teams also favours CSK with Dhoni’s team winning 15 matches in 23 meetings.
This was the second time RCB were bowled out under 100 in the opening match of the IPL. They had managed just 82 in the 2008 season opener against Kolkata Knight Riders. This was also RCB’s joint second lowest total in the tournament’s history.