Dhoni and CSK rule Eden
Eden Gardens was about Mahendra Singh Dhoni and a sea of yellow on Sunday evening. It was hard to believe the support Chennai Super Kings and their captain enjoyed on alien territory.
No Indian cricketer in recent years, except for Sourav Ganguly, has perhaps earned so much respect and adulation from this knowledgeable crowd.
When Dhoni walked in, the visitors still needed 81 off 59 balls in their chase of 162. In the company of Suresh Raina, he ran hard between the wickets showing the fitness and enthusiasm of a 20-year-old before being done in by one that spun in from Sunil Narine.
Dhoni, despite being troubled by back spasms, contributed 16 off 13 balls during the 40-run partnership and the Super Kings were 41 adrift with 26 balls remaining at that stage. But Raina (58 not out off 42 balls) and Ravindra Jadeja (31 not out off 17 balls) held their nerves as they completed the five-wicket victory with two balls remaining.
Raina’s experience always comes in handy and Jadeja is a handy contributor in such situations with his clean hitting and ability to find the gaps. Imran Tahir’s four wickets had also played a role in restricting the home team to 161 for eight.
Together they coolly laid to rest the Knight Riders’ challenge as the Super Kings consolidated their position at the top.
If Eden Gardens is considered the Knight Riders’ den, the Super Kings certainly grabbed a huge share of their fan base on Sunday.
It showed in their performance. As the Super Kings soared, the Knight Riders plummeted to their third consecutive loss in this IPL. Chants of C-S-K, C-S-K and D-h-o-n-i, D-h-o-n-i filled the air as Shah Rukh Khan watched helplessly from the balcony.
It was not that the Knight Riders lost the plot after being put into bat. Having made three changes to the XI, they reposed faith in their opening combination of Chris Lynn and Narine.
Narine hardly got much chance to showcase his talent as Lynn took charge from the outset. The Australian had gone into the match with a total of 169 from six games at an average of 28.16 but looked in ominous form on a hot and humid afternoon.
With seven boundaries and six sixes, he raced to 82 off 51 balls and laid the platform for the Knight Riders. None of the bowlers managed to make an impact as Lynn used the long handle to good effect.
It included 23 runs off one Ravindra Jadeja over, including three consecutive sixes. As Knight Riders raced to 121 for three after 14 overs, Dhoni brought back Tahir in an attempt to stem the flow of runs.
That proved to be the decisive move as Tahir dismissed both Lynn and Andre Russell in the same over.
Both paid the price for being over-ambitious though due credit should also be given to Shardul Thakur and substitute Dhurv Shore for outstanding catches in the deep.
Russell clobbered a flat four and a six off the four balls he faced but Tahir exacted revenge making intelligent use of the slowness of the wicket. Tahir’s celebrated each time with his now-famous frenzied run on the Eden turf much to the chagrin of the home team supporters.
The twin departures proved to be disastrous for the hosts — only 29 runs came off the remaining 31 balls at the expense of three wickets. It also perhaps proved to be the decisive phase of the innings.
None of the remaining batsmen, including Karthik and Shubman Gill, could step on the accelerator. Karthik did his cause no good on the eve of the selection for the World Cup with 18 off 14 balls.
The Knight Riders captain needed to show some restraint given the circumstances but failed to judge Thakur’s change in pace.