The backdrop of the second match of the day was so similar to the first. CSK like RR was 1 loss away from entering into the must-win territory of the tournament. DC, on the other hand, would be table toppers if they managed to eke out a victory against CSK. The worry for Iyer’s men was that CSK looked in song in the last match, with their tried-and-tested strategy of spinners applying the chokehold in the middle overs. DC, on the other hand, has the most well-rounded bowling attack in the entire competition after MI and could pose threat to the under-fire CSK middle order.

CSK won the toss and chose to bat at the cauldron of Sharjah. The aim would have been to score heavy and take advantage of the sluggish wickets in the 2nd half of the match. The men in yellow opened with Curran and Du Plessis, much like the last match. As I stated in the last match as well, Sam Curran’s opening will be like Sunil Narine. He will pay off in certain instances and in certain cases, he won’t. Today he was dismissed off a knot by Tushar Deshpande- the fast bowler from Mumbai. Before I go into further details of the match, I must laud Shreyas Iyer for handing over the new ball to Deshpande after he looked in-form last match.

Du Plessis and Shane Watson consolidated the inning well after Curran’s dismissal. When the ball is not moving around with pace, Shane Watson is a much better player and the short boundaries helped the Australian all-rounder as well. The in-form Du Plessis and Watson did just what was expected from them. They maneuvered the ball into gaps and played risk-free cricket to form a solid 87-run partnership. The partnership not only ensured that CSK lost no more wickets in the first 10 overs but also maintained a good run rate of over 8 per over.

Watson got to 36 and Du Plessis anchored the CSK inning with a valiant 58 off 47 deliveries. But just when either of Watson or Du Plessis was supposed to Tee off, they lost both their wickets in quick succession, leaving 2 new batsmen at the crease. Up to this point in the match, it was a normal CSK template. Openers giving them good starts- the out-of-touch middle-order spoiling the good start and no finishing flourish at the end resulting in CSK settling for a sub-par score.

The man who made the difference today for CSK was Ambati Rayudu. Though he has played quite a no. of good innings this IPL, I think this is the best I have seen him time the ball. He looked equally adept against pace and spin as he stepped out and slog-swept Ashwin over the deep mid-wicket boundary with ease. In fact, he became so confident about his game in the slog overs, that he began giving a Matthew-Haydenesque walk to the pace duo of Anrich Nortje and Kagiso Rabada. He started walking towards the pacers to shorten their length, while he comfortably flat-batted them over deep cover for sixes.

Rayudu scored a brutal 45 off 25 deliveries and was equally supported by Jadeja whose batting has improved with every passing IPL match. Tonight he scored a magnificent 33 off 13 deliveries. The sheer ease with which Jadeja dispatched Nortje and Rabada out of Sharjah speaks volumes about the work he has put in to improve his ability with the willow.

The major issue for DC today was that their premiere bowlers went for runs in the death. The best death bowling duo of the tournament so far- Nortje and Rabada conceded 32 runs off the last 2 overs. Ashwin, who plays a major role for DC in the middle overs was taken to the cleaners by Watson and Rayudu. A score of 179-4 looked above par on a slowing wicket, especially with Karn Sharma and Jadeja in the lineup.

DC inning began on a wrong note. Prithvi Shaw was dismissed once again in the first over, unable to counter Deepak Chahar’s swing. Rahane’s batting form is speaking about his insecurity in the playing 11. His feet are not moving properly and he is slicing away from the body- signs of an under-confident batsman.

The inning of 60 that Dhhawan played against MI cost DC the match, because of his low strike rate. That inning in a losing cause suddenly has freed up Dhawan a lot in the crease.  I am sure that it is some kind of message from the team management that Dhawan needs to play his natural game and today we witnessed what can happen if Dhawan plays with freedom.

The cover drives were back, the swivel pull was being timed judiciously and most importantly he started hitting boundaries square of the wicket. Just the aggression with which Dhawan stepped out to Jadeja and hit him for a couple of boundaries did not let Dhoni give any more overs to the left armer.

He swept, glanced, and whipped the CSK spinners as Jaddu and Karn Sharma conceded 69 of their 5 overs. A CSK bowling attack, where the spinners have been rendered ineffective, looks toothless. The exact same thing happened today. Unable to stall the onslaught of Dhawan, he was forced to bring on Bravo and Curran much earlier than he would have liked to, but it made no effect on Dhawan who looked like batting on a different planet altogether.

The particular shot, that he hit off Sam Curran with a checked loft over long-on is one that I can watch for ages. Just the timing on the ball, the way Dhawan held his pose with his typical left hander’s elegance was surreal. In the end, Dhawan reached a very well-deserved Century- his first in all IPL cricket and most importantly it turned out to be for a winning cause.

Sam Curran bowled a very tight penultimate over to keep 17 off the last over for successful defense. But the moment Bravo could not bowl it because of injury, it was game over for CSK. Both Karn and Jadeja would have bowled into Axar and Dhawan’s arc and there was no respite. Axar especially has been very severe about taking a left-arm spin to the cleaners and tonight he took a full toll on Jadeja. Axar slammed Jadeja for 3 sixes in the last over to ensure Dhawan’s century for DC did not go in vain.

With this win, DC has almost laid one foot into the playoffs. The next objective will be to ensure a place in the top 2. CSK, on the other hand, goes into the must-win territory, something that they haven’t experienced in the recent past.