On a track that saw 411 runs scored in less than 39 overs, it was a virtual shootout between the power hitters of Punjab and Chennai. As it turned out, Punjab’s overseas players Glenn Maxwell and David Miller outhit their counterparts from Chennai, Dwayne Smith and Brendon McCullum, to secure a comfortable six-wicket win.
Punjab’s successful chase of Chennai’s 205 for 4 was only the second time the side overcame a 200-plus target.
That they were able to pull it off on Friday was good news for the side that retained just two players. But it was a low-key start nonetheless for Virender Sehwag and Cheteshwar Pujara, Punjab’s openers, who couldn’t manage big runs when everybody around them did.
Chennai batted first and set up what was considered a winning total only to see it chased down. But for all the runs scored, the game was not really a thriller.
Nerves of steel
Both sides made runs at a rapid clip throughout but Punjab, perhaps benefiting from having a set target to chase, and of course from the nerveless hitting of Maxwell, and after his dismissal, Miller, running out comfortable winners.
The one moment of uncertainty in the whole game came when Maxwell edged a reverse-sweep skyward. Punjab were 91/3 in the 10th over and Maxwell was on 37. Ashish Nehra, a surprising choice at short third-man, appeared to settle under the skier, but didn’t even get his fingers on it.
Beyond that, Maxwell pretty much put the ball where he wanted to, and on those occasions that the delivery took his edge, it streaked away to the fence.
Maxwell was out in the 16th over, but by then his 95 off 43 balls had set it up well for Punjab, who only needed 39 off 26 balls with six wickets in hand. Miller finished the job, rather appropriately, with back-to-back fours in the 19th over, remaining unbeaten on 54 off 37.
Despite the comfortable win for Punjab, Chennai started ominously. Traditionally a side that began a match circumspectly before bringing in the power hitters at the end, the new-look Chennai bristles with big hitters right from the beginning.
Smith and McCullum will represent a high-octane opening pair and after that come Suresh Raina, MS Dhoni and Dwayne Bravo. The batting stretches beyond that too – Faf du Plessis and Jadeja did not have to step out of the dugout during the first innings.
Smith (66 off 43) and McCullum (67 off 45) put on 123 runs in just 12.1 overs, with the Kiwi opener particularly severe on tearaway Mitchell Johnson, who suffered like all other bowlers in the match. Shrugging off a toe injury to make the playing eleven, Johnson did not, however, have continued…