Super Kings simply superb

The Jacob Oram-Suresh Raina combine accounted for Brendon McCullum and Ricky Ponting off successive deliveries.-K. PICHUMANI

Kolkata was not the team it was in its earlier matches, while Chennai maintained its wonderful consistency. Nandita Sridhar reports.

Intelligent bowling and uncompromised hitting gave Chennai Super Kings its third straight win in the IPL, as it defeated Kolkata Knight Riders by nine wickets at the M. A. Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai.

Jacob Oram’s brace of wickets off successive deliveries defined the course of the match. Brendon McCullum looked a distinct threat, with some audacious strokes. Oram’s lack of pace and a subsequent focus on line and length helped snare McC ullum and Ricky Ponting. One aggressive shot too many by McCullum found Suresh Raina at extra-cover, after which Ponting’s ill-fated drive found the fielder in the covers.

“In the last two games, I bowled too short or too wide. This time I bowled a better line and length. I am not completely happy with my bowling, but I am getting there,” said Man-of-the-Match Oram.

The double-strike was hard for the visitors to recover from, despite Wriddhiman Saha’s cameo. He temporarily boosted the run-rate, after overcoming initial periods of awkwardness. His dismissal slowed things down for Kolkata. Pacer Manpreet Gony, having suffered briefly, bowled Saha with one that came back. Spurred by the efforts of Oram and Gony, Muttiah Muralitharan bowled a beautiful spell, giving away just 12 runs in his four overs. The off-spinner’s variations were near-impossible to pick. Chennai’s bowlers had come up with a commendable performance against a strong Kolkata line-up.

L. R. Shukla saved the innings from disaster with some spunk later on, making sure Kolkata managed 39 runs in the last four overs, taking the score to 147.

Chennai’s response was fitting, with Matthew Hayden’s 49-ball 70 allowing little room for a breakthrough, after Pathiv Patel fell to Ajit Agarkar. Hayden and Patel put on 66 runs for the opening partnership, with the former striking the ball with characteristic authority. The left-handed Australian struck six fours and three sixes, each shot an attempt at making the visitors pay dearly for their batting lapse. The drives were the most effective, executed with the force and balance one expects of him.

Dhoni offered excellent support with a 27-ball 43. The closing six was a fitting way to finish a match Chennai deserved to win.

Chennai will miss the services of Hayden and Michael Hussey, who will both be unavailable for the crucial stages of the IPL. But Oram was confident the side was equipped to deal with their departure. “I do not think we will be affected as much as most think we will be. The team will be getting Albie Morkel and Makhaya Ntini and there are some good, young domestic players in the squad who can win matches for us,” he said. Despite Oram’s assurances, Hayden’s outstanding performances have made him nearly irreplaceable in the squad.

THE SCORES

Kolkata Knight Riders v Chennai Super Kings, M. A. Chidambaram Stadium, Chennai, April 26, 2008.

Result: