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Dhoni plays a decisive role

- Five-wicket victory over RR takes CSK to top of points table
Ravindra Jadeja celebrates a wicket with teammates, on Tuesday

Ranchi: If Mahendra Singh Dhoni is batting in the final over during a run chase, he can do absolutely no wrong. And when the game is played here, at the JSCA Stadium, it seems beating his team — be it Team India or the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) — will just remain a dream for the opponents.

For the umpteenth occasion, Dhoni’s presence till the final over ensured his team reach home safely and end yet again as the Super Kings of close finishes.

Chasing a modest 149, CSK prevailed over Rajasthan Royals by five wickets with two balls to spare in what turned out to be an intriguing contest. The win took CSK to the top of the table with 16 points from 10 matches.

For the strong CSK batting line-up, the target of 149 should have been bread and butter. But the Royals’ disciplined bowling, led by left-arm spinner Ankit Sharma and Kevon Cooper, was what made the game tighter. The efforts of the two bowlers deserve appreciation since both were playing their first match of this IPL.

Yes, the pitch was slow and some of the balls kept really low as well. But that said, credit needs to be given to the Royals as not for once did they throw in the towel.

In the end, they had to bow down to the finisher in Dhoni (26 not out). Together, Dhoni and Ravindra Jadeja (11 not out) put on 28 for the unbroken sixth-wicket stand.

Off the final over, CSK required 12 runs to win. James Faulkner, who otherwise was pretty decent with the ball having cleaned up a well-set Faf du Plessis at a critical stage, paid the price of bowling a length ball to Dhoni.

The CSK captain swatted it over deep mid-wicket for a flat six, which reduced the equation to five runs off four balls. You really cannot expect a team like CSK to lose from thereon.

Equally important was the role played by Jadeja as it was his stroke over long-off — off the bowling of Cooper — in the third ball of the 19th over that went for half-a-dozen and eased the pressure.

His figures with the ball too were simply outstanding, as he picked up two wickets for just 18 runs off his four overs. No wonder he was adjudged the Man of the Match.

Credit goes to Dwayne Smith, top-scorer with 44, and Faf as well for the important runs at the top that made sure the equation was always within CSK’s reach. Faf’s stay in the middle was more crucial as he played through cramps and held one end up before being undone by a beauty from Faulkner.

Earlier, things looked pretty bright for the Royals as Ankit and Shane Watson had got them off to a solid start, putting on 60 at almost eight runs an over. It appeared to get more and more difficult for CSK as Watson looked at his smashing best, while Ankit, in his very first appearance this season, played smart cricket, giving more of the strike to his captain.

Ravichandran Ashwin, who took some stick, gave CSK with a much-needed breakthrough. Ankit’s dismissal, though, hardly had any effect on Watson as the awesome strokes continued to flow from his bat.

But before Watson could do further damage, Mohit Sharma (three for 31) bowled a straight one that kept a shade low and dismantled the former’s middle-stump as he went for an aerial shot.

Prior to Watson’s dismissal, the Royals had also lost the in-form Ajinkya Rahane, who was run out having added just four runs beside his name.

The double blow badly dented the Royals’ progress. The big hits dried up and CSK bowlers used the slowness of the pitch to perfection to keep the rivals in check.

Samuel Badree and Jadeja were spot-on with their line and length as the Royals scrambled to 148 for eight, which wasn’t at all enough to beat a team of CSK’s might.