The Dubai international stadium shaped up for an interesting clash between SRH and CSK tonight. I must say I was looking forward to this because both the teams are placed awkwardly in the table and a string of bad games can shut down their playoff hopes altogether. SRH needed to win 5 of their remaining 7 games to qualify for the playoffs, whereas CSK needed to win 6 of their remaining 7 games to go to the next round. Despite the relative advantage in terms of points for SRH, CSK has turned things around in the past from similar positions. In 2010, after 7 matches in the league stage, CSK, like this year, won only 2. From there they went on to become IPL champions.

CSK won the toss and chose to bat. A very understandable decision from MSD, as they have choked repeatedly under the pressure of a run-chase (Yes I am talking about THE MS Dhoni’s team choking in a run-chase). What I found inexplicable is the decision to remove Jagdeesan, who batted the best in the last match, and replace him with Piyush Chawla. SRH made a positive change after their death bowling was exploited the last match and played Shahbaz Nadeem as the 5th bowler, in place of Abhishek Sharma.

CSK made an inspired change up the order to take advantage of the powerplay. Sam Curran was sent out to open alongside Du Plessis in a Sunil Narine-Esque role for CSK. Sam Curran is a much better batsman than Narine and as a result, he used the shorter square boundaries of the ground to good effect to take Khaleel to the cleaners. He was dismissed after a quickfire 30 and that provided CSK with the momentum in the initial overs.

Shane Watson-out of form and Shane Watson-with runs in his kitty are 2 completely different batsmen. After that decisive 83 he played against KXIP, his feet have started moving well. His susceptibility against the incoming deliveries has reduced quite a bit and he is looking at comfort with the consolidation of the inning in the middle overs.

Watson and Rayudu joined hands in the middle phase of the inning. Rayudu seems to have opened his stance up a bit, as he is standing a bit more open-chested towards the bowler. The move seems to have worked in his favor in this tournament, as he is playing that iconic NO. 4 position for his team with great consistency.

The turning point today, was the nonchalance with which Watson and Rayudu played Rashid Khan. SRH bowling template is centered around 4 economical overs from Rashid Khan in the middle phase, which always yields a wicket or two. The slog sweeps and step-out hits from Watson and Rayudu ensured that Rashid was taken for 30 in his 4 overs, handing the advantage to the men in yellow.

To be honest, SRH was lucky to have seen the back of Rayudu (41) and Watson (42) before the slog overs. Both of them were dismissed by full tosses, which could easily have been dispatched over the fence. Once, the two set batsmen were dismissed, Jadeja and Dhoni chipped in with cameos to take their team to an extremely competitive total of 167 in 20 overs. The six Dhoni hit of Natarajan today, turned the clock back to Adelaide 2013 and gave us an indication that we may be in for a Dhoni-special inning by the end of this IPL.

I was very delighted to see Warner keeping Natarjan’s 2 overs for the death. Dhoni keeps Bravo’s overs for the death, Rohit keeps Bumrah’s overs for the finish, DK keeps Russell for the 18th and 20th over and it was so good to see a young Indian left-armer be in the same league with these established death bowlers. Another bowler, who bowled fantastically tonight was Sandeep Sharma. He moved the ball around on a pitch that was showing signs of wear and tear, as he accounted for CSK’s openers inside the powerplay.

SRH began the chase on the wrong foot. Both Warner and Pandey got dismissed in the most unfortunate manner. An inside edge ricocheted off the pads of Warner to lob up for a return catch to Sam Curran. Pandey was dismissed by a freakish piece of brilliance at cover by Bravo, who caught the batsman short of the crease.

Dealt with 2 early blows upfront, SRH tried to recover courtesy of Bairstow and Williamson. Bairstow curbed down his attacking instinct and started relying on singles and doubles to set up a solid base for the slog overs. Then came that ball from Jadeja.

I have stated time and again, that a major reason for the failure of CSK this year, is that their spinners are not performing. For the first time in the tournament, I found Jaddu hitting probing length to the batsman. Anticipation was always there, as Bairstow was finding it difficult to negotiate against him. Then the left armer bowled 3 arm balls that skidded on from good length to Bairstow cramping him for the room. The 4th ball exactly landed on the same good length area and straightened to hit the top of the middle stump- a dream dismissal for a left-arm spinner.

Once, Bairstow was dismissed, it was a lone hand from Williamson. He tried finding support from Garg and Shankar, but both of them got dismissed in their teens. Williamson nudged his way to a valiant 42 and almost threatened to take the game away from CSK single-handedly when Karn Sharma scalped the New Zealander to put the death nail on the SRH coffin.

Rashid and Nadeem tried to pull off a heist, but failed and finally, the Men in Yellow emerged victorious from the campaign. Shardul was consistent as usual for CSK and Curran proved to be miserly with the ball as well. But it was the 3 top-order wickets scalped by the CSK spinners on a dry wicket, that handed them a significant victory to mark the beginning of the 2nd half of the tournament.