Back at Chepauk, Raina is a Super King

Chennai Super Kings coach Stephen Fleming ensured Suresh Raina — CSK’s backbone — had a good hit in the middle batting in both the innings.

Suresh Raina goes for a big one at the Chepauk on Sunday.   -  B. Jothi Ramalingam

Ticket sales for Chennai Super Kings’ matches start from Monday. But if you are looking to catch the ‘men in yellow’ in action, there is little time left to grab the tickets, if one were to go by the crowd that turned out for a match simulation on Sunday.

There is hardly going to be a vacant seat in the venue when CSK plays its first match on April 10 against Kolkata Knight Riders.

On Sunday, even before its practice match started at 5 p.m., the C, D, E lower stands almost filled up and past dusk, there was hardly an empty seat in the upper deck either. In the end, the turnout touched close to 15,000.

Skipper M.S. Dhoni missed the match having to go to New Delhi for receiving the Padma Bhushan award.

But then, the practice match reaffirmed some of CSK’s tried and tested strategies. Dhoni and CSK pioneered using a spinner in powerplay with R Ashwin. After losing Ashwin to Kings XI Punjab, CSK got ace spinner Harbhajan Singh and the ‘turbanator’ started proceedings.

Coach Stephen Fleming ensured Suresh Raina — CSK’s backbone — had a good hit in the middle batting in both the innings.

While in the first innings, Raina couldn't get the flow, though he slammed four boundaries and a six over long-on (34, 27b), the second time around the left-hander got stuck in, launching bowlers across the park (54, 27b, 7x6, 1x4).

Raina slammed four sixes off a Deepak Chahar over with some huge sixes over mid-wicket and one over the bowler’s head.

With wrist spinners’ stock on a high in world cricket, it must have been heartening for the CSK management to see the performance of Imran Tahir and Karn Sharma.

Tahir had the batsmen flummoxed with his variations. He picked four wickets for just 14 in the first innings, while Sharma conceded 29 off his four and picked two wickets.

After the auction in January coach Fleming had said, “We have identified spin as our strength and it is something we have used before in Chepauk and we will probably use again.”

The wicket had a lot of help for the spinners and CSK will look to repeat its feat from 2011, where it won all its home matches including the final.

Dwayne Bravo, who had an injury scare during training two days ago, had a decent hit in the middle and rolled over his arm for three overs.

The team’s main Indian fast bowler Shardul Thakur was made to sweat it out, bowling ten overs across two innings.

One player who failed to make an impact on Sunday was Kedar Jadhav who struggled in the middle and was dismissed thrice over the two innings.

Overall, the team’s key players gave a fairly good account of themselves and it bodes well for the two-time champion ahead of the season opener.