Calcutta: After a rather sloppy start, it seems there’s no stopping Chennai Super Kings (CSK) in IPL-V.
They are no strangers in wriggling out of difficult situations, and they did it again at the Eden, on Monday, against Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR).
Chasing a competitive 157, CSK batsmen remained composed and held on to their nerves to win the match in the last ball of their innings.
Five runs were needed off the last ball and Dwayne Bravo thumped a slow full-toss from Rajat Bhatia over the long-on fence for a six.
But credit should also go to the openers — Michael Hussey (56, 39balls, 4x4) and Murali Vijay (36, 25balls, 5x4, 1x6) — who laid the foundation for the win with a partnership of 97 runs.
KKR bowlers were wayward towards the start of the innings, providing enough room for the CSK batsmen to swing their arms. A few lusty hits by Hussey and Vijay saw CSK go off to a brisk start. While Hussey played a classy innings, which was laced with four hits to the fence and four sixes, Vijay’s innings was all about aggression.
But KKR bowlers pegged back CSK with some fine bowling in the middle overs. Narine bowled superbly to take two wickets in the 11th over. The first wicket was of Hussey. While trying to sweep the spinner, he got a top-edge and was easily clasped by Bhatia. Two balls later, CSK suffered another blow as Narine’s delivery turned sharply into the batsman and cleaned up Vijay.
At the end, CSK needed 27 runs off the final two overs when captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni came into the act.
He hit the inexperienced Marchant de Lange for a six and two boundaries in the penultimate over to bring the asking rate down. With nine required off the last over, KKR captain Gautam Gambhir brought on Bhatia when there was still an over left in Jacques Kallis’ quota.
Bhatia started well by castling Dhoni in the second ball and contained the run flow by giving only four in his next three balls. With five runs left to score off the last ball, Bravo did the star turn by hitting the six.
The five-wicket win was the third victory for CSK on the trot and took their points tally to 17. It might not guarantee CSK a place in the playoffs but will certainly boost their chances of making the cut.
KKR, on the other hand, dropped to the third place by losing two matches on the trot, at home. They are now third in the table with 17 points from 14 matches.
Earlier, the KKR openers, Gautam Gambhir (62, 43balls, 6x4, 3x6) and Brendon McCullum (37, 29balls, 4x4, 1x6), were aided by some poor fielding from CSK. It was in the first ball of the fourth over that Ashwin found Gambhir’s edge with the KKR’s captain’s score on 19. But the ball went between the wicket-keeper Dhoni and first slip Suresh Raina.
In the next over, Jakati failed to judge McCullum’s catch off his own bowling with batsman’s score on 13.
It did not take another invitation for the two batsmen as they took the CSK bowlers to the cleaners. The duo stitched together a partnership of 99 runs off 69 balls to help KKR post the competitive total.
The KKR openers made their intentions clear from the first over itself. Gautam Gambhir showed great composure and determination in his 43-ball innings. He hit six boundaries and stroked three over boundaries.
It was delightful to see Gambhir playing the spinners. With nimble feet, he made good use of the crease to hit the spinners all over the park. He especially targeted left-arm spinner Shadab Jakati. He started the onslaught by pulling Jakati for a boundary and then went on to hit a straight six and a boundary through midwicket.
He was equally aggressive while playing the fast bowlers. He pulled Ben Hilfenhaus for a huge six through deep square leg.
McCullum, who was making a comeback after missing out the last match due to finger injury, did not take long to join the party. His flick off Hilfenhaus was a treat to watch.
Such was Gambhir and McCullum’s dominance that Dhoni had to use five bowlers within the first eight overs to stem the run flow. However, the bowlers were left clueless as the openers scored even off good length deliveries.
The only way, it seemed that CSK could have broken the partnership was if the two openers committed mistakes.
It came in the 12th over when a misunderstanding between Gambhir and McCullum cost the latter’s wicket. After completing a single by stroking one towards the mid-on region, McCullum immediately set out for the second.
But Gambhir looked disinterested and only refused the run when McCullum was halfway down the crease. The New Zealander did not have any chance to make his ground as Dhoni affected a direct hit.
KKR lost their captain in the very next over when Gambhir paid the price for being overtly aggressive. Though KKR lost McCullum in the previous over, they were comfortably placed at 100 for one. Under these circumstances, Gambhir should have played sensibly and concentrated on building another partnership with Jacques Kallis. Instead, he went for his shots and perished in the process.