CSK and RCB faced off for the first double-header of the Sunday at the Dubai International cricket stadium. I am afraid, that unless things take some dramatic turn, the tournament was already dead for CSK even before the match began. The tried and tested strategy for CSK, which has worked for the last 12 years has come to its own undoing. CSK’s fall this season has been so much like the Frankenstein story- The same strategy of sticking to the core that has promoted CSK to the playoffs in every season they have played so far has now led them to become the wooden spoon holders this season.

To begin with, CSK made a change that I suggested in one of my blogs long back. With misfiring Jadeja, CSK’s middle overs have become their weak spot since the beginning of the tournament. Hence, they should have replaced Jadeja with Santner’s long back. However, CSK being CSK, put their punt on Jadeja the entire season and only gave an opportunity to Santner after their season was over.

RCB won the toss and chose to bat on a sluggish pitch that promised stickiness at the very outset. It was a typical Chepauk wicket and MS Dhoni must have waited for such a wicket the entire season. The new hardball started swinging a bit and sticking to the surface from ball no. 1. Sam Curran and Deepak Chahar look completely different on these sticky surfaces and aid a bit of swing. Curran dismissed Finch early using the slowness of the pitch as Finch mistimes a delivery to extra cover.

Santner showed his worth in the 2nd over itself as he dismissed the promising Paddikal of his very first ball of the 2nd over. Santner ended with match figures of 4-0-1-23, conceding at less than run-a-ball in his allotted quota of overs. In fact, the introduction of Santner took a bit of pressure of Jadeja as well, as he ended up conceding just 20 from his 3 overs in the middle phase of the inning.

If on a sluggish wicket, anybody in the RCB squad is going to stick in and play the long inning, it has to be Virat Kohli. Kohli exactly did that dropping anchor and running hard between the wickets. Kohli and ABD kept the scoreboard ticking with singles and doubles, but the slowness of the surface and accurate lines from Santner, Tahir, and Jadeja meant that the big overs did not come in the middle phase of the game. In fact Kohli failed to hit a boundary between overs 6 to 14 and that in the end affected RCB’s score.

The fact that Kohli scored just 1 boundary and 1 over the boundary in his half-century and still managed to score at a strike rate of 120 speaks volumes about the class of this legend. That is the beauty of players like Kohli. Even on days, he is not smoking the ball, he will labor his way to a half-century and ensure that his team gets to a good score. De Villiers played second fiddle and scored 39 to take RCB to a par total of 145-6 on a slow wicket.

Sam Curran was excellent for CSK picking up 3 wickets. Deepak Chahar and Curran ensured that RCB did not get the finishing flourish, they desperately needed. The duo scalped Kohli and De Villiers at crucial moments to hand the advantage to Chennai at the halfway mark.

CSK came out to bat with the same opening combo of the last match. I had criticized MSD’s choice of opening with Ruturaj in the last match, as he hadn’t opened in any form of cricket before. Even after an excellent half-century today to guide his team home, I stand by my point that the opening spot is not for Ruturaj at all.

If you dig deep into today’s inning, you can understand the intricacies of his success. All the RCB pacers including Morris and Saini are hit the deck bowlers who thrive on hard green pitches, from where they can extract bounce. Swinging the ball upfront or, banging off-cutters into the surface is not exactly their forte and CSK cashed in on that today. Virat Kohli has looked to terrorize oppositions with raw pace upfront in this season. On a tired sluggish surface, Virat’s strategy fell flat. The short balls which should have whizzed past the batsman’s nose on other occasions, sat up to be dispatched and Gaekwad took full toll on it.

The boundary he hit off Siraj over cover in the 4th over, by stepping out of the crease, was an ideal demonstration of how the lack of pace in the surface has rendered Siraj ineffective today. The same was the story of all the RCB attack. Ruturaj, who is generally susceptible to the moving ball and short pitch stuff, exploited the slowness of the track to race to a half-century and anchored the chase for CSK.

Rayudu supported Ruturaj well as he scored 39 off 27 deliveries. The low target meant that the CSK middle order could play out the crucial overs of Chahal taking less than run a ball from the leggie. Chahal operates a lot on the bounce of the wicket and the slow surface rendered his wrist spin ineffective as well partly.

Courtesy of a solid 65 from Gaekwad and cameos from Rayudu and Dhoni, CSK romped home with 2 points. A victory has been a rarety for them this season, and this clinical performance for sure will uplift the spirit in the yellow camp. RC, on the other hand, should not fret much over this defeat and regard it  a temporary road block in their quest for the playoffs.