IPL 2019: Dhoni, Bravo slay Rajasthan Royals

A top-order failure, Raina - Dhoni rescue act, and the bowlers strangulating the batsmen at the death defined the Chennai Super Kings of the yore on Sunday.

Chennai Super Kings celebrates Sanju Samson's dismissal at the M. A. Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai on Sunday.   -  SPORTZPICS

The script of the past played out to perfection as Chennai Super Kings beat Rajasthan Royals by eight runs in a high-scoring thriller at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium on Sunday.

Batting first, CSK, initially silenced by the top-order collapse, went berserk to score an above-par 175/5 in its 20 overs, with Dhoni anchoring with an unbeaten 75 off just 46 balls with four fours and as many sixes.

Chasing, Rajasthan threatened to invade CSK's fortress but fell just short at 167/8 as Ben Stokes (46 off 26 balls, 1 four, 3 sixes) and Jofra Archer (24 n.o. off 11 balls, 1 four, 2 sixes) almost made a match of it. 

This was Chennai's third win in as many matches while Rajasthan now has lost all three it has played. 

Rajasthan Royals and Chennai Super Kings had identical starts. The top order couldn't contribute to the scoring and fell in a heap. While it was Ambati Rayudu (0), Shane Watson (13) and Kedar Jadhav (8) for Chennai, it was Ajinkya Rahane (0), Sanju Samson (8) and Jos Buttler (6) for Rajasthan who made early exits. 

As it happened

Two men made the difference stand out between the two teams – M.S. Dhoni and Dwayne Bravo. 

Rahul Tripathi (39 off 24 balls) and Steve Smith pumped oxygen into Rajasthan's chase with a partnership of 61 (42 balls) for the fourth wicket, but Tripathi soon lost concentration and ended up mistiming an Imran Tahir leg-break to play it back. 

Smith and Ben Stokes, the last recognised batting pair for Royals, joined hands but with the required rate crossing the 12-runs per over mark, pressure gave a telling blow. 

Smith, who batted fluently for his 28, charged down the track to Tahir and got the elevation but missed the distance as he played it to Dhruv Shorey's hands at long-on. 

With half the Royals side dismissed inside 100, it was too much to ask from the lower order but Stokes and Archer kept Rajasthan in the hunt. 

ALSO READ: From 2008 to 2019, Dhoni hits half-century every IPL season

The dew factor compounded CSK's woes as Archer and Stokes kept sending the ball into the orbit. The duo did try staging a recovery act with a 44 run partnership off just 18 balls, but it was CSK which held its nerve in the end. 

With 12 runs needed off the last over, Bravo's heroics sent Stokes on his way in the first ball of the over. He accounted for Shreyas Gopal in the fifth ball as he just conceded three in the final over. 

Dhoni's masterclass

Rajasthan seemed to call the shots when CSK crawled to 29/3 in the powerplay and 55/3 at the halfway stage. But what hit the side next was a display of exquisite stroke play from Dhoni, Raina and Bravo. 

Fielders remained mute spectators and bowlers remained clueless as Dhoni, along with Raina (36 off 32 balls), Bravo (27 off 16 balls) and Jadeja, milked 120 runs in 60 balls, with 76 coming in the last 30 balls of the innings, 60 off the last 18 balls of the innings.

At the centre stage of it all was Dhoni. He read the conditions to perfection, just another day in the office for him, as Ajinkya Rahane's plans went awry at the death.

The dew factor, that set in as the play progressed, too played its part. 

ALSO READ: IPL 2019: Dhoni special lifts CSK from the rut

Dhoni first brought the Chepauk crowd on their feet when he sent Kulkarni over the long-off region for six, off a free-hit. He then got to his half-century (39 balls, 4 fours, 1 six), his 21st in 178 matches, when he sent Archer to the backward point boundary as the crowd went berserk. And it was just the start. 

The bowlers at the death were treated with disdain. While Dhawal Kulkarni gave 24 off his last over (18th of the innings), Jaydev Unadkat saw 28 runs go off his last (20th) with the last three balls clearing the ropes with ease – all from Dhoni. 

A rocky start from CSK

Earlier, Chennai Super Kings got off to a horrid start with Jofra Archer, Ben Stokes and Kulkarni raiding the top order, leaving Chennai clueless. 

It was then Dhoni and Raina, who, with more than a decade of experience of playing together, forged a 61-run partnership for the fourth wicket to bail CSK out of troubled waters. 

The understanding that Dhoni and Raina have is a treat to watch. Both the players don't make loud calls and rotate the strike with impeccable eye contact. At one point, the duo stole two runs with the ball barely crossing the 30-yard inner circle. 

ALSO READ: IPL 2019: Scott Kuggeleijn replaces Lungi Ngidi in CSK squad

Unadkat got the breakthrough when he castled Raina for 36 (32 balls, 4x4, 1x6) as the batsman tried to get some room and work it on the offside but missed a slower one completely only to have his defence breached. 

Bravo and Dhoni continued the assault with a 56-run partnership, that came in just five overs as the fielders scurried for cover as CSK amassed a humongous score by Chepauk standards.