Keep calm, carry on
The match looked like an open-and-shut case at the halfway stage. However, it exploded in the second half, providing thrills and high-octane drama that kept the viewers on the edge. Chennai Super Kings, in pursuit of 152, were in trouble at 24/4 at the end of the Power Play, before a robust 95-run stand for the fifth wicket between Ambati Rayudu and captain MS Dhoni took them to the cusp of a win. Despite Rayudu’s exit in the 18th over, Dhoni marched on, setting the stage for a thrilling climax, in which Chennai needed 18 runs from the final over.
But when the talismanic captain was bowled by Ben Stokes for 58, it brought the match equation down to 8 runs from 3 deliveries. This was followed by the unprecedented, after a waist-high full toss was revoked as a no-ball, which brought Dhoni out on the field to protest with the on-field umpires. In the end, Santner sealed the deal off the last delivery with a thumping six to propel them to a four-wicket win. For the Rajasthan Royals, this loss — their fifth in six matches — further underlined their underwhelming campaign so far.
Chennai’s chase was fundamentally built on the partnership between Rayudu and Dhoni. When they got together, it looked like they were on the verge of a calamitous implosion. But they kept their cool, their common-sense approach reaped rewards.
Rayudu, who has faced much flak in recent times, looked his part, matching his captain shot for shot. His 47-ball 57 was studded with three sixes and a brace of boundaries. The knock will serve as a timely reminder to the selectors when they sit down to select the 15-man squad for the World.
Royals fought hard, defending with a burst of energy. It began with a sensational opening over from Dhawal Kulkarni, who prised out Shane Watson with an exquisite out-swinger. If the Royals bowlers were breathing fire, they were well backed up by some out-of-the-world fielding. First-up was a direct hit from Joffra Archer that saw the back of Suresh Raina. Then came the rasping catch at point by Ben Stokes that dismissed Kedar Jadav. At that instant, they were on course to register an unlikely win.
When MS Dhoni lost his cool
— Shakti Solanki (@shaktisolanki00) 12 April 2019
The clock is ticking for the Rajasthan. Having registered just a solitary win from the five matches in this IPL season so far, they pretty much had their backs to the wall ahead of their home duel against the rampant Chennai Super Kings. Bulk of their travails have been their misfiring top-order. In an attempt to unshackle themselves, the Royals openers led by Jos Buttler and captain Ajinkya Rahane launched a blistering assault against Chennai’s medium pacers. Buttler shuffled around and used the depth of the crease to put Deepak Chahar off guard, while Rahane creamed left-arm spinner Mitchell Santner for a brace of boundaries.
On the face of it, this all-out belligerence looked extremely promising with the home team racing past the 50-run mark in a little more than four overs. The issue for the Royals was that such a move proved to be counter-productive, especially against the disciplined and well-rounded bowling attack marshalled ably by their irrepressible captain MS Dhoni. On Thursday evening, their bowlers got into their act once again, stifling Royals with ridiculous ease. The early onslaught did little to faze Chennai’s bowling though as they kept chipping away with wickets at regular intervals. Chahar snapped Rahane early in the innings, while Thakur pinned Buttler, who threatened to take the attack to the opposition. After the Royals openers were dismissed cheaply, it set the stage for the famed spin troika to assert themselves on the proceedings.
Santner extracted turn and got the ball to dip appreciably, plucking Sanja Samson, while Ravindra Jadeja continued to be pin-point accurate, prising out two vital scalps, including that of Rahul Tripathi to register his 100th scalp in this format. Together, they spun a web around Royals. From 47/2 in the 4th over, they had meandered to 103/6 in the 15th over. Once again, it was their misfiring middle-order that dug their team in the hole. For a team that boasts of the likes of Steven Smith and Ben Stokes, they have surprisingly done precious little to inspire confidence so far. Smith, obviously hampered by his elbow injury, struggled to get going, scoring a painstakingly dour 22-ball 15; Stokes, who, has a miserable IPL season, with 76 runs from five matches, could muster 28, before he was nailed by Chahar.
There were some innovative stroke-play from Shreyas Gopal towards the fag-end of the innings that took them to a middling score of 151/7 after 20 overs.