A lot was expected from the Delhi Capitals’ star-studded batting line-up following their blitzkrieg in the season-opener against the Mumbai Indians at the Wankhede Stadium. On the big night at their home turf, they found the going tough against Chennai’s disciplined and well-rounded bowling attack, ably marshalled by MS Dhoni. They posted a below par score of 147 for 6 and went down by six wickets.
Sensing the two-paced nature of the pitch, the Chennai captain MS Dhoni made a couple of smart moves at the outset. Firstly, he introduced Harbhajan Singh, his experienced and in-form off-spinner in the third over of the innings. Secondly, he finished off the full quota from his pace bowler Deepak Chahar upfront.
This, in turn, helped him preserve his other two spinners — Ravindra Jadeja and Imran Tahir — and the wily medium-pacer Dwayne Bravo to apply the choke in the middle overs. To be fair to Delhi, they didn’t start off too badly, with their openers Prithwi Shaw and Shikhar Dhawan beginning their pursuits in contrasting styles.
Shaw tore into Chahar, unfurling the horizontal bat shots to good effect. Dhawan, on the other hand, was sedate and biding his time out in the middle. The issue with Delhi’s batting was that no one from the top-order really stood up to assert themselves against the Chennai bowlers.
They did get off to assured starts; but just when one got the sense that they had settled down, they would find ways to inexplicably get out.
Shaw looked promising on 24, before Chahar nailed him with a short-pitched delivery. Captain Shreyas Iyer, who walked in at No.3, was trapped in front by Imran Tahir’s quicker delivery for 20-ball 18.
In the midst of all this, Dhawan looked fairly subdued at the other end, with the Chennai’s spin trio exerting their stranglehold on the proceedings.
It was Rishabh Pant’s entry that brought a semblance of life into the Delhi innings. Fresh from his onslaught against Mumbai, the young wicket-keeper kept the scoreboard ticking with a brace of boundaries and a six.
However, like Shaw and Iyer, Pant’s stay at the crease, too, was short-lived — with Bravo orchestrating the dismissal with a clever slower delivery. Pant’s departure could not have come at a more opportune moment for Chennai, because till he was around, they had harboured hopes of getting a score in excess of 180.
His departure in the 16th over, stalled Delhi’s pursuit. Colin Ingram, Keemo Paul and Dhawan all departed in the space of subsequent 11 deliveries, to give Chennai the ascendancy. Just to put things into perspective, Delhi had notched up 82 runs in the last five overs against Mumbai on Sunday night. Tonight, they could muster only 29 runs. Credit must go to the Chennai bowlers, especially Bravo’s spell at the fag end of the innings.
He didn’t do anything spectacular. In fact, he conceded 17 runs in his first over. That did not deter the 35-year-old. He mixed his pace cleverly and hit those yorkers with pin-point precision, to finish with figures of 3/33. Bravo’s spell was the definitive factor that tilted the tide in Chennai’s favour.
Bowlers taken to the cleaners
At the half-way mark, all eyes at the Feroz Shah Kotla was on the 22-yard strip. Doubts lingered about its propensity to aid Chennai’s bevy of stroke-makers. All this dissipated at the sheer violence with which Shane Watson and Ambati Rayudu began their chase, creaming four boundaries between them in the first fourteen balls.
Their belligerence notwithstanding, the start was fraught with danger as Rayudu was dropped in the first slip off Dhawan in the opening over.
For a fleeting moment, Delhi sensed an opening after Sharma extracted his revenge, by dismissing Rayudu, who failed to fend off the Delhi pacer’s brute short-pitched delivery. But Suresh Raina, who joined Watson, continued with the onslaught, and looked under no strife. Chennai’s No.3 looked in vintage form, clearing his front leg and orchestrating his trademark clash over the point region.
Delhi, on the other hand, missed a trick by not unleashing Kagiso Rabada at the start of the chase. Iyer decided to play the waiting game and introduced the Protea pacer only in the fifth over, after the exit of Rayudu. This move did not have any effect on the outcome of the game though as Watson used Rabada’s pace proficiently to earn 10 runs from his opening over. Delhi bowlers gave away 58 runs in the Powerplay.
Chennai’s chase also exposed a vital chink in Delhi’s armour — their lack of a potent spin bowler. The incumbents — left-arm spinner Axar Patel and leg-spinners Amit Mishra and Rahul Tewatia inspires little confidence in toppling opposition teams.
Not surprisingly, the trio could do little to stifle the flow of runs. Even though Mishra had prised out the scalps of Watson and Raina, he was taken to the cleaners. It was only fitting that Dhoni’s humongous wallop against Mishra’s final delivery of his spell, and the penultimate over of the match, that sealed the deal for Chennai.
Brief Scores: Delhi Capitals 147/6 (S Dhawan 51 (47b, 7×4), R Pant 25 (13b, 2×4, 1×6); DJ Bravo 3/33) lost to Chennai Super Kings 150/4 in 19.4 overs (S Watson 44 (26b, 4×4, 3×6), MS Dhoni 32 (35b, 2×4, 1×6), S Raina 30 (16b, 4×4, 1×6); A Mishra 2/35) by six wickets.