Mahendra Singh Dhoni reaffirmed his status as the best finisher in limited overs cricket with yet another fluent final flourish as the Chennai Super Kings as romped home by five wickets against Rajasthan Royals in a one-sided encounter of the of the IPL on Tuesday.
Chasing a modest target of 149, CSK reached the target with two balls to spare as skipper Dhoni hit a six off James Faulkner’s final over to make required 12 runs off the final over look like a walk in the park.
Dhoni’s unbeaten 26 came off 16 balls with a four and a six after in-form Dwayne Smith (44) and Faf du Plessis (38) set up the chase.
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Ravindra Jadeja’s 11 off 6 balls also was important in the final context of the match. Jadeja also helped the Royals being restrict to a below par score with brilliant figures of two for 18 in four overs.
CSK now are on top of the eight-team table having 16 points from 10 games while Kings XI Punjab with 14 from nine games are a notch below.
Despite the loss, Royals, on 12 points from 10 games also remain firmly in contention for a play-off berth holding onto their third place.
While Smith batted in his customary attacking fashion hitting five fours and two sixes off 35 balls, Brendon McCullum (6) and Suresh Raina (2) were out playong poor shots to left-arm spinner Ankit Sharma.
Smith hit a couple of straight sixes off Faulkner and was involved in a 35-run partnership with Du Plessis, who was having problems with running between the wickets.
While Smith mistimed a pull-shot off Kevon Cooper to be caught by glovesman Dishant Yagnik, Ravichandran Ashwin (14) was done in by a customary slower delivery from Rajat Bhatia.
However CSK’s batting depth again came to the fore as Dhoni’s presence ensured that it was the umpteenth time that the formidable outfit successfully chased down a target in the death overs.
Earlier, Royals skipper Shane Watson came up with his best score of the season – a fiery 51 – but his team lost momentum midway through the innings to score a modest 148 for eight in stipulated 20 overs.
Watson’s decision to promote himself to the opening slot paid dividends as he emerged top scorer for his side with a 36-ball knock, which featured four sixes and three boundaries.
They were going steady and strong, reaching 84 for one at the half-way mark but lost wickets in a heap after that as the batsmen tried to step up the gas.
Except for a 60-run stand between Watson and his young opening partner Ankit Sharma (30), RR failed to put up partnerships and that pulled them down.
Paceman Mohit Sharma (3/31) and left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja (2/18) shared five wickets between them.
West Indies leg-spinner Samuel Badree began for CSK and bowled a superb three-over spell, conceding just 11 runs. He bowled a tight wicket-to-wicket line and Watson and Ankit Sharma played the bowler on merit.
The left-handed Ankit made a promising start, offering straight-bat shots to Mohit, hitting the paceman for two consecutive boundaries. The youngster then showed his aggressive side by plundering 17 runs off R Ashwin’s over, hitting the experienced spinner for two fours and a six.
Ashwin returned and had his revenge, having the youngster caught near the ropes.
Watson was cautious initially even though he was striking the ball well. The burly Australian exploded later as he punished debutant Vijay Shankar, reeling off 19 runs in the 10th over to take the team’s score to 84 for one.
Ajinkya Rahane (4) was needlessly run out in a terrible mix-up with his captain, who later completed his fifty with a big hit off Mohit but was bowled immediately off a beauty that swung from good length to shatter the stumps.
RR’s downfall started with Watson’s wicket as they kept losing one batsman after another. Their last match’s heroes Steve Smith (9) and James Faulknar (1) also returned to the dug-out cheaply.