Chennai Super Kings faced Rajasthan Royals for their first game in Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium, Pune and defeated them at a comfortable pace by 64 runs. Two teams who dealt with the pain and backlash of a two years’ suspension now came back to play against each other.
CSK, with skipper Dhoni, one of the best finishers of the game and Bravo, the death overs’ specialist, are a wonder at chasing and have succeeded two out of three times this season doing just that, but RR decided to turn things around and put CSK to bat first. Considering RR’s bowling average, however, it may not have been the best decision as CSK fell short of their predicted score of 220 only by 16 runs, ending their innings with 204 runs.
Shane Watson, a former star player of RR, gave them no mercy as he fully accepted his new family this season – CSK. He opened the match and stayed till the very last over to score his century. He secured at least one boundary or six each over, proving himself to be a force to be reckoned with. He was almost caught by Rahul Tripathi in two incidences – the first an easy catch dropped and the second a relatively more difficult case, two very expensive mistakes as was proved later on.
Ambati Rayudu did his part to secure singles and place Watson at the batting position as often as possible but left soon in the fifth over. Suresh Raina came in to replace him, however, and we saw one of the best partnerships of this season. His first game after the injury, he spectacularly slammed four consecutive boundaries, proving nothing could stop his skill at this game. Together, they doubled the run rate within seven overs until Raina became Shreyas Gopal’s first of three wickets that evening.
The disappointment of losing Raina was soon replaced by cheers throughout the stadium for the crowd-pleaser himself, MS Dhoni. All expectations were on him to steal the show from Watson but ended up leaving after one over, bowled by Gopal and caught by Gowtham. Everyone, team and opponent alike, were not ready to see Dhoni go.
Shreyas Gopal outdid himself with excellent bowling, not only taking wickets but also restricting the batsmen from scoring. He proved himself to be more useful than RR’s costliest bowlers – Jaydev Unadkat and Ben Stokes. Bravo finally entered in the first death over, perfectly placed in the line-up, but he wasn’t able to prove his full potential as he had in the previous games because last night the spotlight was only on Watson. Watson’s exhaustion and Gopal’s bowling combined to give CSK only 43 runs in the death overs, securing them a score of 204/5.
RR opened with captain Ajinkya Rahane, entering with a new partner, Heinrich Klaasen. Klaasen soon left and Sanju Samson came in to form the anticipated duo with Rahane. Sanju Samson, a standout performer in RR, had proved his batting skill, breaking records and taking over the newspaper headlines by storm. Last night, however, both Rahane and Samson left the field early, relieving CSK of their only threats. By the fifth over, RR had managed to lose two crucial players and had a run rate only half of what was required. Wicketkeeper Jos Buttler and bowler Ben Stokes attempted to keep the ship sailing for a few overs until the English duo was soon replaced by the Karnataka boys – Stuart Binny and K Gowtham. Watson proved his all-rounder status, and took Gowtham’s wicket, speeding up RR’s decline. The RR batsmen fell down like bowling pins, handing CSK the win required to push them to the top of the IPL points table.
Dhoni didn’t bring in his best bowlers – Bravo and Jadeja – until the second half of the game, alternating between Thakur and Chahar in the first half. They were probably held back as trump cards to play if and when RR managed to reach the required run rate. Bravo did not lose his chance to perform and put up a good show, however, and took Rahul Tripathi’s wicket – not a great thank you for paving their way to victory.
RR’s crucial drops and sloppy fielding allowed CSK to cross the 200-mark. Their usual prominent players like Samson and Rahane, could not establish themselves last night and it appeared as though the team had entirely depended on them for a victory. RR made some bad decisions, while CSK was in full form. CSK managed a beautiful performance with two injured players and of course, the man of the match – Shane Watson. Although, we would have loved to see Dhoni and Bravo have more stage time, Watson’s finesse in the game made up for that disappointment.
CSK would hope to remain on top with their match against Sunrisers’ Hyderabad at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium, Hyderabad at 16:00 IST on April 22nd and RR should get back in form for their match against Mumbai Indians at 20:00 IST on the same day.