Mahendra Singh Dhoni could do no wrong in Chennai. This is his adopted hometown and he is a demi-god in the city. On Saturday, his status reached an unassailable level as he led Chennai Super Kings to a seven-wicket win over Royal Challengers Bangalore in the Indian Premier League opener at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium on Saturday.
The match was billed as Dhoni's calmness over Virat Kohli's aggression and it was composure and experience that prevailed.
Dhoni 's arsenal delivered, on his cue. He won the toss, put RCB into bat and his spinners, Harbhajan Singh (3/20), Imran Tahir (3/9) and Ravindra Jadeja (2/15) picked up eight wickets between them and shot RCB out for a mere 70, the sixth-lowest total in the tournament's history and the least in M.A. Chidambaram Stadium's history.
For RCB, only Parthiv Patel managed a score in double digits - 29 (35 balls) out of 70.
Chasing 71, CSK overhauled the target in 17.4 overs, with seven wickets to spare. This was CSK's seventh consecutive win over RCB.
Dhoni read the nature of the pitch well. It was sluggish and slow. He deployed a deep midwicket fielder for the spinners and it yielded immediate results. He also had a couple of close-in fielders for the spinners, saving the singles and that strangulated the RCB batsmen. The pitch showed up some tricks, making the ball stop on the batsmen and also with variable bounce. CSK deployed four spinners while RCB had just two in its ranks, which eventually made a difference in the end.
CSK started slow and steady but built partnerships, the missing factor in RCB's innings. While Ambati Rayudu (28 off 42) and Suresh Raina added 32 for the second wicket, Rayudu and Kedar Jadhav (13 not out of 19 balls) added 19 off 30 balls for the third.
After Shane Watson's early dismissal, Rayudu and Raina took their time to steady the CSK ship. Just when it looked like Raina got his eye in, he perished attempting a big shot. The southpaw was harsh on Moeen Ali, scoring three boundaries off him including two consecutive ones, but couldn't get his elevation right only to find Shivam Dube in the long-on fence.
Raina, during his course of 19 (21 balls), became the first batsman to score 5,000 runs in the IPL.
Jadhav and Rayudu went about knocking the runs off in singles and doubles. Although they played too many dots, the bad balls were treated with disdain. The asking rate hovering well within ranges helped CSK's cause too.
Once Md. Siraj sent Rayudu back with a short one that the batsman pulled on to his stumps, it was Jadeja and Jadhav, who is moving towards the role of an accomplished finisher, who saw CSK though.
Earlier, Dhoni gave his spinners - Harbhajan, Tahir and Jadeja - single spells and the slow bowlers responded in style.
Harbhajan sent RCB in a tizzy by picking up three wickets in the first eight overs and RCB never recovered from that blow and RCB's hopes was as good as over.
Dhoni started with pace and spin from both ends, with Deepak Chahar and Harbhajan bowling in tandem, and it didn't take long for the veteran off-spinner to take the prized wicket of Kohli - for just 6 (12 balls), caught in the deep midwicket fence by Jadeja. Chepauk took no time to erupt into a trance.
Moeen Ali silenced the crowd when he smacked Harbhajan for a six but a tame dismissal, caught and bowled, brought his end as RCB slipped to 28/2. The decibel levels in Chepauk rose a bit more.
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The 38-year-old spinner then sent dangerman AB de Villiers (9 off 10 balls) back to the hut and when Shimron Hetmyer had a worst-possible debut to be run-out for no score, RCB slipped to 39/4.
While de Villiers tried to smack Harbhajan over the cow corner only for a waiting Jadeja making no mistake, Hetmyer just pushed the ball to Suresh Raina, at covers, and set off for a single and before he realised Dhoni whipped the bails from Raina's throw. The West Indian didn't attempt to get back in time and was a mere spectator, halfway down the pitch.
The noise levels at the venue reached a crescendo when Imran Tahir, introduced in the 11th over, struck to remove Dube, caught by Shane Watson in the slips for two. RCB, by now, lost half its side for just 45 on the board.
Jadeja soon joined the fun and sent Colin de Grandhomme for 4, caught by Dhoni, as RCB slumped to 50/6. The lower order contributed 20 valuable runs but in the end, RCB fell way short of standards.