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Saturday, October 16, 2021

Bravo Chennai: A sharp spell by all-rounder and solid batting set up CSK’s win over RCB

CSK’s man for all seasons sets up easy chase as RCB’s conservative approach backfires. MS Dhoni’s side go atop standings after the 6-wicket victory against Royal Challengers Bangalore

Written by Tushar Bhaduri |
Updated: September 25, 2021 7:31:32 am
Raina and Dhoni after winning the match for CSK against RCB (Twitter/IPL)

It was a captaincy contest between the mentor and his protégé, and M S Dhoni won it hands down. Sharjah is known as a graveyard for bowlers, but not only did the Chennai Super Kings skipper keep Royal Challengers Bangalore to a modest score – despite an opening century partnership – his batsmen then showed how to keep the foot on the accelerator throughout. CSK reclaimed top spot on the points table as RCB suffered a second straight loss after the restart.

Man for all seasons

Ruturaj Gaikwad saved CSK from embarrassment in their previous match, and showed that he can adjust admirably to a different match situation. Chasing a moderate total, Gaikwad and Faf du Plessis made good use of the new ball, which seemed the easier time to bat, to put their team well on its way.

Their stand of 71 in little more than eight overs dashed any realistic RCB hopes of successfully defending a score of 156. Both got out at the same score, and despite the pitch offering decent assistance to leg-spinners Yuzvendra Chahal and Wanindu Hasaranga, the chase was always in control and completed with 11 balls to spare.

The veteran South African showed his intent early by engineering a daring scoop shot off speedster Navdeep Saini, before Gaikwad took charge against the spinners using his feet to hit straight and also bringing out both versions of the sweep.

Gaikwad showed an aggressive streak walking down to Harshal Patel and slamming him past mid-off while du Plessis ended the Powerplay by taking Saini to the cleaners, ensuring that the likes of Moeen Ali, Ambati Rayudu and Suresh Raina didn’t face much pressure.

Conservatism backfires

With a first over bringing 13 runs, RCB fans would have been looking at a 200+ score. But the openers took the conventional route, setting the platform for an onslaught later on. Kohli and Devdutt Padikkal were steady and consistent, rather than electric, an approach probably more suited to conditions in Dubai or Abu Dhabi.

With AB de Villiers and Glenn Maxwell to follow, an opening partnership of 111 in just over 13 overs was a two-edged sword. Kohli and Padikkal looked in control for the most part, but in hindsight, needed to push the pedal a bit more after settling in. If anything, the stand went the other direction.

Being 55/0 after the Powerplay should have allowed a more aggressive approach. Even at 90/0 at the hallway stage, there was hardly an inkling that the subsequent 10 overs would yield just 66 runs. The openers got their individual half-centuries, but once the stand was broken, RCB slumped to 45/6 in 6.5 overs.

The subsequent batsmen struggled to come to terms with a slower-than-expected surface. They knew the history of the venue where 220-plus has not always been a safe score, but in the quest for a bigger score surrendered the initiative altogether.

Both De Villiers and Maxwell hadn’t had any competitive cricket since the IPL was suspended in early May, and even for pedigreed performers like them, it may have been too much to expect them to hit the ground running against bowlers who executed their skills admirably at the death. They managed the odd big hit, but it wasn’t enough for the team’s cause. RCB batting is usually top-heavy and there was precious little contribution from those following them.

Banker leaks runs

Deepak Chahar has often been Dhoni’s banker in the Poweplays, getting vital wickets with a swinging ball as batsmen falter while taking the game to him. He is not the quickest, but movement either way frustrates those going for the big hit. Often, the skipper would use him for three of the first six overs and sometimes even bowl him out in one go.

But on a postage-size ground with a flat pitch, Chahar’s Plan A was found wanting. When he tried to extract swing by bowling it full, he found little joy as he was spanked for three boundaries by Kohli and Padikkal in the first over.

The first ball drifted into Kohli’s pads and was tickled to the fine-leg fence. Next ball, the RCB skipper flicked an incoming delivery over midwicket for another four. The last ball of the over was a long half-volley which Padikkal creamed through the covers.

Things didn’t look up for Chahar in his second over either. A wide offering to the left-handed opener got what it deserved. That forced the bowler to go his variation of a knuckleball, but Kohli came down the pitch and used a tennis forehand-style shot for another boundary.

His first two overs went for 23 and forced Dhoni to bowl Josh Hazlewood for three overs in the Powerplay.

When Chahar returned in the 12th over, it didn’t start well for him again. A short and wide cutter from round the stumps was clobbered by Padikkal through the off-side.
But with the other CSK bowlers rising to the challenge, and using pace off the ball and pulling their length back – Dwayne Bravo and Shardul Thakur were the chief protagonists – RCB were kept well below what would have been a par score at Sharjah.

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