It was the sort of length that puts seeds of doubts in the batsman’s mind. He becomes just a tad unsure about which way the ball will deviate, and his footwork turns tentative. Indeed, deliveries on the old fashioned good length from the pacemen consumed and threatened batsmen all night on a greenish pitch that offered seam movement here on Sunday.
And Lungi Ngidi, running in smoothly, releasing the ball with that powerful front-on action of his, and seaming the ball both ways, hit this length more often than anyone else to scalp four for just 10 in four captivating overs, helping Chennai Super Kings overcome Kings XI Punjab by five wickets in a relatively low-scoring encounter.
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Crucially, he took out the in-form K. L. Rahul, who shouldered arms to a delivery that darted in from a good length. Then, in the chase of 154, the left-handed Suresh Raina, playing the role of an anchor to perfection and exploding at the finish, took Chennai Super Kings home along with skipper M. S. Dhoni.
The win was sealed when Dhoni hooked Mohit Sharma for the maximum in the final over, but for Kings XI, it was curtains long before that moment, as it needed to win the match by at least 53 runs to qualify ahead of Rajasthan Royals.
Tactically sauve, Dhoni promoted Harbhajan Singh and Deepak Chahar. The ploy was to disrupt the rhythm of the pacemen, wait for the pitch to ease and the dew to set in, lengthen CSK’s batting and go in for the final assault. The plan worked.
Both Harbhajan and Chahar, who impressed with his weighty blows, contributed usefully.
Much like Kings XI, CSK was dented at the start. The in-form Ambati Rayudu was snared outside off by Mohit, Faf du Plessis was taken low at slip by Chris Gayle off the impressive Ankit Rajpoot. And Sam Billings was done in by a lovely Rajpoot delivery that moved away just a shade. But then, with CSK at 27 for three, Aaron Finch, diving across from second slip, put down Harbhajan Singh off Rajpoot. It proved a costly miss.
For Kings XI, Karun Nair (54 off 26 balls) batted with skill and dare on this pitch, moving across the stumps, pulling and driving over covers, and capping his effort with an audacious reverse flick off Bravo.
Earlier, Kings XI was rocked in the initial overs after being inserted. Gayle ‘walked’ after getting a glove to an Ngidi delivery for Dhoni to do the rest on the leg-side. And Chahar’s mean back-of-a-length delivery seamed away to find Aaron Finch’s edge. Suresh Raina flew to his left for a spectacular catch at slip.
And Raina was there at the end to finish things off.