Watson thickens plot, Royals fail to rumble

Shane Watson slams fourth T20 ton to set the stage for a 64-run win in Chennai Super Kings’ new den against Rajasthan Royals on Friday.

Chennai Super Kings’ Shane Watson in action against Rajasthan Royals at the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium in Pune on Friday.   -  K. PICHUMANI

 

The opportunity was gone in milliseconds. And with that Rajasthan Royals grassed the game.

The first over of the innings — by swing bowler Stuart Binny — proved decisive. Shane Watson, on eight, nicked a delivery that moved away and Rahul Tripathi put down a sitter at first slip.

The Aussie, handed a lifeline, made the Royals pay. His marauding, match-winning 57-ball 106 powered Chennai Super Kings to 204 for five on a surface offering some assistance to the bowlers if they hit the right areas.

Then, CSK went on to win by a mile — 64 runs to be precise — for its third win in four IPL games.

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Ironically, Royals captain Ajinkya Rahane had inserted CSK to exploit early assistance on a surface with a tinge of green. Then came the first-over drop.

When Royals pursued, CSK struck big. Heinrich Klaasen, playing inside the line in defence, saw his stumps rattled by the lively Shardul Thakur.

The in-form Sanju Samson, fatally, miscued a pull off seamer Deepak Chahar.

The accurate Chahar, who varied his length well, got the big one when Ajinkya Rahane failed to connect a heave.

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CSK continued to make inroads. The crafty Dwayne Bravo consumed Jos Buttler with a change of pace.

And when a battling Ben Stokes (45) was held in the deep off leg-spinner Imran Tahir, it was all over for the Royals.

Earlier, the explosive Watson dismissed the ball ruthlessly around the park. This was an innings of fury and thunder from the man down under.

The feature of his fourth Twenty20 hundred was strong back foot play. Watson shifted weight to his back leg with ease to essay the pull even if the ball was only a fraction short of a length.

He also, creating room, played the cut from close to his body — even if the width was not quite there — between point and third man.

Then there were the inside-out cover-drives and a straight, flat six off off-spinner Krishnappa Gowtham, apart from a rousing cover-driven six off left-arm paceman Jaidev Unadkat.

How they fared

The Top Buys: Chennai Super Kings’ M.S. Dhoni — who is in the 15-crore bracket — didn’t fire with the bat today. He was dismissed for 5 but Captain Cool pulled off a couple of catches behind the stumps.

Rajasthan Royals’ Ben Stokes, bought for Rs 12.5 crore, went for 39 in his three overs, took a catch to dismiss Sam Billings but looked good with the bat. The southpaw smashed 45 off 37 balls, which included three fours and a six, but couldn’t guide his team home.

The Rookie: Sanju Samson, the 23-year-old, started the tournament with a string of good performances but he missed out tonight. The right-hander was dismissed for 2.

Watson is pushing 37 but continues to be fit. Apart from striking the ball with enormous force, he rotated the strike, controlled the innings.

Suresh Raina sizzled too, an iridescent cover-drive being the pick in his four successive boundaries off Stokes.

During his 29-ball 46, Raina picked the length quickly, hit through the line and found the gaps.

For Royals, leg-spinner Shreyas Gopal contained and struck to peg back a rampaging Super Kings. He has an easy action, possesses control and does send down the googly.

Seamer Ben Laughlin bowled effective cutters as CSK lost some momentum towards the end.

But the men in yellow had done enough damage by then. It was Watson’s night out.