Gilly stems the rot

Gilchrist’s charge overwhelmed the Super Kings.-V. GANESAN

Called on to lead a side that had until then provided rich material for the stand-up comic specialising in short-duration cricket, Gilchrist ensured the Chargers didn’t suffer its sixth loss in seven games, writes S. Ram Mahesh.

The Chennai crowd has a reputation for being India’s most cricket-intelligent. During the match between the Super Kings and the Deccan Chargers, the city’s fans offered evidence in support: 10 overs into the Chargers innings, several got up and left. Admittedly, the rapidly thickening traffic outside the Chidambaram Stadium was persuasive; as were the discomforting moths drawn to the lights. But what these shrewd patrons had no doubt discerned was that Adam Gil hrist had effectively settled the contest.

Called on to lead a side that had until then provided rich material for the stand-up comic specialising in short-duration cricket, Gilchrist ensured the Chargers didn’t suffer its sixth loss in seven games. First he restricted the Super Kings to 144 for seven through captaincy that was hailed in some quarters as inspiring and imaginative. V. V. S. Laxman, party to five losses during his time at the helm, considered his injured hand with a rueful smile. Gilchrist then proceeded to knock off 54 from the target — and this in good time. He departed to a sharp catch by S. Badrinath in the 10th over, but by then the left-hander had ensured that only the worst case of heebie-jeebies would compromise his team.

Rohit Sharma produced a stroke that should have had an entire highlights reel dedicated to it — a liquid straight drive for six, the ball taken on its rise — but it was the pair of Scott Styris and Shahid Afridi that ended the match with two overs to spare. Styris was steady, gathering his 36 at a rate slower than a run a ball. Afridi, who practised the most innocent of back-foot pushes at the non-striker’s end when he first came in, finished in a flurry of boundaries.

“We are learning from our mistakes,” said Gilchrist. “We are not looking at the points table as I know we are at the bottom (sic). We have improved a lot and hope to continue our good showing. We know we have the talent. But it does not guarantee victory. IPL is of international standard and each player has taken it seriously.”

The seven-wicket defeat brought to focus the troubles of Chennai’s top-order since Matthew Hayden and Michael Hussey departed. Parthiv Patel’s insipid run as opener continued, his stay terminated by R. P. Singh’s magnificent running catch; S. Anirudha was hurried into a pull stroke by R. P. Singh, who finished with figures of two for 12 off three overs; Stephen Fleming was caught well by Rohit Sharma. Between them, the top three contributed 19 runs in 29 balls.

Suresh Raina, at number four, did better, top-scoring with 32. But the alliance he looked to form with M. S. Dhoni couldn’t salvage the Super Kings innings. Nothing should be taken from the Chargers bowling. P. Vijay Kumar backed R. P. Singh with the new ball, showing an impressive ability to switch angles without greatly suffering in accuracy. R. P. Singh raised bounce, as surprisingly did Styris. Pragyan Ojha’s flat left-arm spin kept Dhoni quiet before the Super Kings skipper fell in curious circumstances.

Albie Morkel, nicknamed ‘long ball’ for his ability to hit, well, a long ball, struck one that reliable sources say was retrieved from the Bay the morning after, but neither his 19-ball 29 nor Manpreet Gony’s late surge discomfited the Chargers terribly.

“We have to settle down as a side,” admitted Dhoni. “Our top-order batsmen played too many shots. They were in two minds whether to go for the shot or not and ultimately lost their wickets playing their shots late. We should not panic.”

THE SCORES

Chennai Super Kings vs. Deccan Chargers, Chidambaram

Stadium, May 6, 2008. Result: Deccan Chargers won by seven wickets.

Chennai Super Kings 144 for seven in 20 overs (S. Raina 32, M. Dhoni 23, A. Morkel 29, R. P. Singh 2-12) lost to Deccan Chargers 148 for three in 18 overs (A. Gilchrist 54, S. Styris 36 n.o., R. Sharma 23, S. Afridi 20 n.o.)