Mahendra Singh Dhoni returned to action in style with a quickfire 44 off 22 balls as Chennai Super Kings thumped Delhi Capitals by 80 runs at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium on Wednesday to move to the top of the points table.
On a typical Chennai pitch, with cracks and not a hint of grass, CSK spinners triggered a collapse which saw Delhi lose eight wickets for 47.
Chasing 180, Delhi lost opener Prithvi Shaw in the very first over with Deepak Chahar once again earning a breakthrough with the new ball.
The dismissal of his partner didn't deter Shikhar Dhawan, who continued his run-glut and along with Shreyas Iyer, prevented the Chennai bowlers from settling into any kind of rhythm.
The two had powered Delhi past the 50-run mark when Harbhajan Singh's off-break beat a full-blooded sweep from Dhawan and crashed into his stumps. One brought two, as Rishabh Pant was caught off Imran Tahir soon after.
Chepauk, Middle Overs, Opposition struggling
When Dhoni lets his spinners loose, that's usually the sequence of events which culminates in a heap of wickets. Wednesday night was no different.
Tahir's twin-strike in the 11th over effectively nipped the chase in the bud. He finished with four for 12.
Dhoni, Raina shine
Dhoni and Jadeja combined to plunder 43 in 22 balls and take Chennai to a fighting score. Jadeja was dismissed for a quickfire 25 off 10 balls including two sixes and as many fours but Dhoni, who sat out the last home game against Mumbai Indians, showed no signs of rustiness.
He ran hard and pinched ones and twos which at times felt risky. Then came the final over from Trent Boult, where a straight drive from Dhoni, off a yorker and two consecutive sixes, took him to 44 off 22 - strike-rate 200 - on an evening which began with uncertainty surrounding his participation.
Shane Watson has struggled for form this season, with a 53-ball 96 against the Sunrisers Hyderabad being his only notable contribution. That knock, though, is increasingly proving to be a false dawn for the Aussie who was out for a nine-ball duck after Delhi won the toss and inserted Chennai into bat.
The new-ball pair of seamer Trent Boult and left-arm spinner Jagadeesh Suchith went about choking the run flow through the Powerplay overs with Chennai's first boundary, coming off Du Plessis' bat after 26 balls.
That proved to be the turning point in many ways, as run-scoring became slightly easier after that. Amid a full-house chanting ' Raina, Raina ', the southpaw sliced Morris through the third-man region for four before collecting two back-to-back boundaries off Axar Patel's first over.
Shreyas Iyer rotated his spin trio Suchith, Patel and Amit Mishra in short spurts as Raina and du Plessis remained unambitious in the opening 10 overs, venturing no more than 53. The duo brought up its fifty-run stand in 41 balls.
Both batsmen worked through gaps and kept the scoreboard ticking over, frustrating the spinners. But just when it looked like du Plessis was going to break free, the Protean holed out to Dhawan at long-off off Patel's bowling.
Raina, joined by Dhoni in the middle, brought up his 37th IPL fifty with two back-to-back fours off Suchith before carving one over long-on.
The Karnataka spinner had his revenge when a sharp catch by Dhawan at backward-point ended Raina's stay. Suchith finished the innings with two crucial strikes for 28. Chennai plundered 126 in the last 10 overs.