Failure to readjust
As Delhi Capitals found out, intent is one thing but when you misread the pitch and set too high a target batting first, things can go downhill very soon. Considering they are so top heavy in their batting, they erred in setting the bar too high and ran out of steam in no time. The pitch played its part no doubt — it was slow, the ball held up a touch, there was some spin and it sucked the life out of Delhi’s aggressive instincts.
The pitch had shown its card in the first over itself when Deepak Chahar got the ball to hold up but the openers didn’t pay much heed. Prithvi Shaw, as he has done through the tournament, has just one tempo in his batting, and he was through with his pull early and was trapped lbw.
Then Chennai’s spinners took over in some style. Harbhajan Singh has bowled like a dream this tournament — seldom has he slowed up the pace as much as he has done this year and yet again he got the rewards. A slowish offbreak had Shikhar Dhawan edging the cut to MS Dhoni.
Perhaps, it was the left-handed Colin Munro’s wicket in the 8th over that made the situation worse and reduced the game into a meandering affair. He had looked good until then, seemed to have judged the pace of the pitch, and delaying his shots – rather waiting for the ball to come on, but he made a tactical error against Ravindra Jadeja. He chose to sweep aerially and too square on this sluggish pitch and found the man placed at square-leg boundary.
With his exit at 57 for 3 in the 9th over, Delhi Capitals’ middle-order muddle started to show. Shreyas Iyer too went for an ambitious slog sweep to Imran Tahir and could only watch the miscue being swallowed in the outfield.
That was that, Delhi Capitals started to limp on and a worried Rishabh Pant shelved his aggressive instincts as he was understandably concerned about what would happen if he got out. So he just pushed and poked around, and watched as his partners scratch around aimlessly. Pant too finally fell without producing much fireworks, but Amit Mishra and Ishant Sharma swung their bat to push the total to 147.
It wasn’t much but they had something to bowl with, especially against Chennai Super Kings who had chosen to go without M Vijay — they chose to go with Shardul Thakur who bowled just one over — and were a batsman short. Which meant, all the pressure was on the top order to not lose wickets. Shane Watson struggled a bit and it meant Faf du Plessis, who too had a slow start, had to take some risks. And he did it superbly.
He took his chance in the 5th over of the chase, against Axar Patel with a slashed four but it was the subsequent six that really got him going. Axar made the mistake of pushing it through but it still took some skill to punch the ball off the back foot over long-off on this pitch. That must have infused confidence in Faf, and he went from strength to strength from that point on. He collected three fours in the 6th over, against Ishant Sharma, who kept pitching it short and it kept disappearing.
Watson slowly started to find some touch and by the time du Plessis fell, pulling a short ball from Trent Boult to deep midwicket, he was helped by the fact that Shreyas Iyer chose to go with Kemo Paul in the over after du Plessis’ exit. Not the wise option, a spinner surely at that make-or-break stage would have been better and Watson blasted three sixes and a four in that 12th over to put the issue beyond doubt. Paul either drifted it down leg or bowled too short or telegraphed his slower ones too early — and was smashed around without much fuss. On this pitch, more overs by the spinners should have been the way to go and everytime Iyer went to a seamer, he ended up watching the white ball fly.
Though Watson fell and Suresh Raina was taken out by the sluggishness of the pitch, dragging Axar to his stumps, things were under control as Dhoni and Ambati Rayudu took Chennai to the cusp of a win.
Despite his fifty, Chennai would still be worried about Shane Watson and a decision has to be made whether they can go with one batsman short in the final.