KKR and CSK faced off for a critical encounter at Abu Dhabi as the league stage of the tournament drew to an end. Much like other seasons, the last week of the league stage promised quite a no. of eliminators. Tonight was one such, as KKR would be virtually eliminated if they lose this match. CSK, on the other hand, had just pride to play for as they approached the business end of the tournament.
CSK won the toss and chose to chase on a good pitch with long square boundaries. MS stated at the toss that he anticipated dew to set in at the later half of the inning. For KKR, they made the much-needed change of adding the extra batsman in place of Prasidh, as they looked too thin on batting reserves in the last match of the tournament.
For the first time in this season, KKR reached a half-century opening partnership, courtesy of some positive batting from Gill. Gill was showing intent against a decent Chennai attack when suddenly Karn Sharma struck. Shubman Gill has been dismissed multiple times in the past by a pitched-up off-cutter, as his front foot game is yet to develop. Players like Joe Root play mostly off the back foot, but he is equally adept to play the off drive to a full ball. Gill stayed on the backfoot to Karn Sharma’s flipper, which skidded on to disturb the stumps for the right-hander- a rookie mistake from an experienced batter.
KKR messed up their batting order by sending Rinku at 4 after Narine was dismissed. It looks like the KKR team management is affected by MS Dhoni syndrome. Dhoni started his career batting at 4 and after getting reasonable success at the position, he dropped lower down to the order, once he started leading the side. I have found MSD’s strategy inexplicable at this point, as I never realized why an in-form middle-order batsman will drop himself down to 7, instead of coming in at 4.
Rana started attacking the CSK spinners with full force while Rinku struggled at the other end. For the first time, this season Jadeja, the bowler looked in form as he bowled tight line and length causing issues to both Rinku and Rana. Rinku fell after struggling for a dozen balls and Morgan did not enough balls to get his eye in because of the scoreboard pressure. Luckily for KKR, Rana kept the flow of runs intact as he scored a valiant 87 to take KKR to a decent score.
The only batting position KKR got right tonight was that of DK. After his visible struggles at 4, he was finally dropped to 6, where he looked excellent once again. Sam Curran and Lungi Ngidi bowled good yorkers and mixed up the pace at the death, but that did not stop DK and Rana from plundering 63 off their last 5 overs to reach 172 in their allotted 20 overs.
I believe the brightest potential for CSK, this season is Sam Curran. In fact, I would go on to say, if CSK goes for a major overhaul next season, Sam Curran should be one of the few players they should retain. He is an ideal replacement of Dwayne Bravo, who probably is playing his last IPL.
I criticized MSD for sending Ruturaj Gaekwad to open for CSK a couple of matches ago. I am pleasantly surprised at being wrong, as Ruturaj is splendidly adjusting to the role of an opener. In the last match, he composed an excellent half-century to guide his team home. Today, his game went up by one notch, as he was just not looking to anchor the inning but shifted gears with ease.
Ruturaj’s timing is god-gifted against the pacers. The simple ease with which, he exposed all the 3 stumps and timed a square drive against Cummins in the 3rd over of the match is simply surreal. His drives and glances reminded me so much about Rohit Sharma’s inning in the 2007 T20 World Cup against South Africa. Lockie Ferguson and Cummins were bowling a serious pace and to despatch them to the square leg and mid-wicket boundary requires a lot of capability. One aspect, where Ruturaj needs to improve is to step out and hit spinners. But he is a fast learner will find his way out of this glitch, very soon.
Varun Chakravarthy is the brightest spot in the KKR lineup this season. For the first time since 2012, he is creating a 4-over-bank for KKR, where opponents are unable to score more than 6 runs per over. The ball with which he dismissed Dhoni was mind-blowing. The skill actually lies in how well he foxed MSD. Just the ball before the wicket, he bowled at 94 kmph to let Dhoni gauge his pace. The very next ball, he bowled at 107 kmph to castle Dhoni, who could not come forward fast enough. To think, that in a matter of a couple of years, Varun Chakravarthy rose from 4th Division cricket in Tamil Nadu to be an Indian squad member, is actually surreal. Varun indeed is a poster boy for the tagline of this IPL “ Where Talent meets Opportunity”.
Both Rayudu and Gaekwad played the KKR spinners cautiously and attacked the pacers’ full toll. When both of them were batting, it appeared that CSK will be motoring along to a win comfortably. A series of wickets from Cummins and Chkarvarthy turned the match in KKR’s favor. Gaekwad departed for a well made 72 and KKR was on the verge of choking CSK to a defeat for the 2nd time in the tournament.
Some excellent finishing skills from Jadeja and some wayward bowling from Ferguson ensured that the repeated miracle did not happen. CSK completed the chase off the last ball of the match and KKR was virtually eliminated from the competition. It is an irony how the same bowler who brought back KKR from the jaws of defeat against SRH was responsible for their defeat in such a crucial match tonight. As they say- Cricket is a great leveler.