In the last edition, Chennai Super Kings entered the playoffs despite losing three matches on the trot. But M. S. Dhoni’s men got their act right when it mattered and regained the IPL Trophy. This time, the defending champion has suffered an unprecedented hat-trick of losses at the start of the league. With Ravindra Jadeja at the helm and the resources at hand, the team faces a challenge like never before.

After the Kolkata Knight Riders batters in the campaign-opener and debutant Lucknow Super Giants laid Super Kings low, it was the turn of the Punjab Kings bowlers to play a decisive role in inflicting a massive 54-run defeat at the Brabourne Stadium. The anticipated run-feast never materialised once the Super Kings chased poorly. One man who played a key role for the Kings was Englishman Liam Livingstone. Twice, the Man-of-the-Match flattened the Super Kings, first with the bat and then with the ball.

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Walking in to face the ninth ball of the innings with Kings at 14/2, Livingstone launched a brutal counter-attack with a 32-ball 60 with five sixes and as many fours. He was particularly severe on the young left-arm new ball bowler Mukesh Choudhary, who conceded 44 runs in the PowerPlay, including 26 off the eight-ball fifth over of the innings.

After Super Kings clawed back by conceding just 38 runs in the last six overs - to make amends for the 72 conceded in the first six - and restricted Kings to 180, Livingstone returned to haunt CSK with the ball. Just when the belligerent Shivam Dube and Dhoni were in the process of salvaging some pride for the Super Kings, joining hands at 36 for five in the eighth over, Livingstone dealt two successive blows to hasten the end.

Bowling his innocuous-looking leg-spinners, Livingstone foxed Dube and induced a miscued heave and off the next ball, brought off a stunning one-handed catch to send back Dwayne Bravo. Thereafter, the crowd looked at Dhoni for some fireworks, but he, too, departed soon for a 28-ball 23. Before Rahul Chahar picked up three lower-order wickets, debutant pacer Vaibhav Arora, Kagiso Rabada, Arshdee Singh and Odean Smith sent back the top-five Super Kings batters to raise visions of a big win for the Kings.

Kings may have benefited from the use of Apsa 80, an anti-dew agent, sprayed in good measure to negate the impact of dew in the second part of the match. But as a unit, Kings outplayed Super Kings. Going forward, the defending champion has to deal with more than just the shortage of a quality seamer, in the absence of Deepak Chahar.