With no frills and with palpable nonchalance, Chennai Super Kings strolled through to a six-wicket victory over Delhi Capitals at the Ferozeshah Kotla here on Tuesday. Shane Watson (44, 26b, 4X4, 3X6) and Suresh Raina (30, 16b, 4X4, 1X6) played enterprising cameos, managing to get the requisite boundaries to help chase down a middling target of 148, after a combined bowling effort by the side.
The victory could have been even more emphatic had Super Kings not slowed down towards the business end of the chase. After 10 overs, it was on 97 for 2. Raina had, until then, played a flashy, strokeful innings, but in trying to play a sharp dab to third man off Amit Mishra, the leg-spinner, he perished, caught behind.
The boundaries stopped flowing and runs came in a trickle as Kedar Jadhav (27, 34b, 2X4) and M. S. Dhoni (32, 35b, 2X4, 1X6) took their time in the middle. With two overs to go, their side needed 11 runs to win; Dhoni’s clean six down the ground off Mishra took the pressure off a bit. In the final over, with two runs to win, Jadhav edged behind to depart for a 34-ball 24, before Dwayne Bravo, the new batsman, hit the winning runs, scoring a boundary through fine-leg off a pull stroke.
The foundation for the chase had been laid well by Watson. Watson muscled balls around in the first few overs, unleashing his stylish flicks and pulls. With a small total on the board for Capitals, the contest seemed one-sided. He eventually departed against the run of play in the seventh over, stumped by Rishabh Pant off Mishra. Nearly half of the runs to get were already scored by then.
Capitals had a positive start in its innings too, through Prithvi Shaw (24, 16b, 5X4) and Shikhar Dhawan (51, 47b, 7X4), the openers. For 15 overs, everything seemed to be going to plan, and then it all unravelled. Edgy batsmen looking for quick runs fell one after the other, and the side limped along at the death, scoring 27 runs for the loss of four wickets in five overs to end its innings on 147 for 7. Bravo was the harbinger of change for Super Kings, taking three of the wickets, including that of Pant, who looked good in his short stay at the crease for another blitzkrieg.
Pant was the first to depart in this period, playing his odd whip to the leg-side with no movement of the body or feet to be caught by the diving Shardul Thakur at fine-leg. His strike-rate had been more than 200 until that moment, and had found ways to get the big hits despite the slowness of the track and the discipline of the Super Kings bowlers, but his finishing touches eluded his team.
Colin Ingram fell soon after, playing a firm off-drive with an aggressive intent, but he was caught by Raina positioned at short-cover for precisely that stroke. Keemo Paul, the No. 6, then, created room for himself to play an unorthodox stroke off Ravindra Jadeja, the left-arm spinner, but lost his off-stump.
With the tail exposed, the responsibility was on the set Dhawan to help his team finish on a high. But he, too, departed, managing a leading edge off Bravo. Axar Patel and Rahul Tewatia scrambled for runs in the final over, but the innings had been well and truly derailed.
For much of the innings, however, Capitals had been in control, as if playing to a plan. Hitting through the line wasn’t easy, but despite this constraint, the batsmen found ways to get their boundaries. Shaw, the opener, seemed to be struggling initially to tackle deliveries that provided him no room to play his strokes and on which he couldn’t gain leverage for big hits. He eventually wriggled out of the situation by unleashing two pull strokes off accurate, short-of-a-length deliveries from Shardul.
Off Harbhajan Singh, the off-spinner, he stepped out of the crease to score another boundary. He stepped out once again, to Deepak Chahar, but managed only an ungainly pull and was caught by the short mid-wicket fielder.
Dhawan, at the other end, was restrained in his strokeplay, scoring the odd boundary when the opportunity arose. He was more the batsman of the classical mould and was prepared to graft – his straight drive off a full delivery from Bravo had the bare minimum of power or ostentation, an oasis in a desert. Despite playing for 17 overs, however, his impact was limited in the situation that a cavalier approach and muscle power.
Super Kings’ bowling unit was disciplined enough to ensure minimum damage. For the large part, they bowled short-of-a-length. Chahar and Shardul were disciplined upfront, and Harbhajan and Jadeja, the spinners, took pace off their deliveries and made sure they didn’t bowl too full. Harbhajan gave away 30 runs in his four overs, his figures slightly deflated by the flat-batted six from Pant off the last ball of his spell.
One half of the job had been done; the batsmen would stroll through to finish up.