Two days after Kolkata Knight Riders took the top spot in the points’ table, Chennai Super Kings dethroned them after their victory over Rajasthan Royals at Chennai on Sunday. The pitch of the MA Chidambaram stadium had become notoriously slow to make scoring of runs very difficult. CSK lost to Mumbai two a few nights earlier in another low-scoring game at Chennai and once again, their batsmen suffered from the same malaise against Rajasthan Royals. CSK had exercised the batting option after winning the toss but almost every Chennai batsman failed save for the inimitable Brendon McCullum. The New Zealnder’s 81 off 61 balls counted in CSK’s 12 run victory in the end, though the team could only make 157/5 in their 20 overs. Coming out to chase 158 for the victory, Rajasthan Royals found the going difficult for the same reason. Their opening stand of 37 took nearly 6 overs and they lost Ajinkya Rahane. Wickets kept falling with CSK bowler Ravindra Jadeja accounting for four of them and yielded just 11 runs off his 4 overs. Jadeja took out Steven Smith, Shane Watson, Karun Nair and Deepak Hooda in quick succession and RR reeled at 90/5 in the 15th over. Sanju Samson and James Faulkner came up with another late surge but once they got out, it was curtains for Royals as CSK walked away with a 12-run win and jumped to the top on the points’ table.
MS Dhoni won the toss and elected to bat first because he knew the nature of the pitch later in the game. By the 4th over, CSK had lost opener Dwayne Smith and Suresh Raina while Brendon McCullum found the scoring difficult at the other end. However, the third-wicket stand between McCullum and Faf du Plessis produced 101 runs before du Plessis got out in the 17th over to make it 116/3. The next over saw McCullum’s fall at 129 after the batsman had made 81 off 61 balls with 7 fours and 4 sixes. MS Dhoni and Dwayne Bravo made small contributions and CSK finished their 20 overs at 157/5.
Under normal pitch conditions, 158 for Rajasthan Royals was not so difficult but Sunday was not one such day. They began well with a 37-run opening wicket stand but consumed almost the entire power play session. Rahane succumbed to a top edge as tried a pull-shot and once he got out, it was Ravindra Jadeja, who wreaked havoc. He began by bowling out Steven Smith, who had scored only 4 runs off 6 balls. Then it was the turn of Shane Watson. It was an out-of-the-world effort from Dwayne Bravo, who pulled off a brilliant one-handed catch, when Watson’s lofted shot off Ravindra Jadeja was destined to go over the ropes. The West Indian kept his balance and once he completed the catch, he launched on his famous celebratory sprint and finished with his customary kuttu dance on the field. Karun Nair and Deepak Hooda were Jadeja’s next two victims and RR were reduced to 90/5 in the 15th over. RR still needed 68 of the next 5.3 overs but with runs drying up, it looked like a herculean task. Regardless, Sanju Samson and James Faulkner made solid efforts and created a scare among CSK ranks. But with Bravo taking Samson’s wicket in the 18th over and Mohit Sharma getting rid of Faulkner in the 19th, it was all over for RR as the next two batsmen fell for ducks. In the end, Rajasthan could only reach 145/9, when the 20th over ended.
With this win, CSK nearly confirmed themselves in the playoffs with 16 points. Rajasthan, on the other hand, find themselves hanging precariously after winning 5 straight games at the start of the League. With just a game against KKR left for them, it has now become a must-win situation if RR have to qualify for play-offs.