Chennai Super Kings is a feared T20 team any day and MS Dhoni is full of guile as a captain. Dhoni has been observed in recent past to send the opposition in after winning the toss. On April 18’s first match Abu Dhabi, he chose to bat first against Kings XI Punjab. The reason was not far to seek. Other than Mitchell Johnson, the KXIP bowling attack didn’t appear formidable on paper and Dhoni’s men were capable of mounting good score at a great scoring rate. That was what CSK did. Everything worked out as a well laid out strategy, when CSK openers Dwayne Smith and Brandon McCullum tore the Punjab bowling apart. They put on 123 runs for the first wicket at nearly 10 runs per over. McCullum was the first to depart for 67 off 45 balls with 4 fours and 5 sixes. The other opener, Smith fell in the 17th over after making a 43-ball 66 with the help of 6 fours and 3 sixes, by which time CSK had already reached 161. In the remaining 22 balls, CSK scored 44 more to finish with 205/4. Any 200+ score, in T20 games, lends the advantage to the team batting first and thus far, everything appeared to be going right for CSK.
When KXIP came to bat, Sehwag and Pujara scored at a brisk pace but both of them got out by the 4th over. Akshar Patel was the third wicket to fall in the 6th over as the score stood at 52/3. CSK’s game plan was working to a tee until now. With 14 overs and a few balls remaining, they had the bowlers to slow down KXIP and slowing down the scoring rate is the key, when a team is chasing 200-plus.
Suddenly things began to go haywire as CSK found two batsmen in the middle, who looked calm and collected. More importantly, Glenn Maxwell and David Miller didn’t appear to be in any hurry. They carefully avoided the aerial route, except for neat placements and scored their runs through classical cricket shots. They nicely complemented each other with Maxwell assuming the lead role and Miller supporting him to the hilt. Without attempting anything risky, they found gaps and kept scoring at will. Amazingly, only 2 sixes were hit until the 15th over. The other 3 came out towards the finish line. The way KXIV completed their task was akin to a surgical precision. The roles played by these two sent panic through CSK, who were hit with the realization that 205 was an ordinary score to begin with. The clinical finish by Maxwell and Miller simply overshadowed the other two performances of the day by Brendon McCullum and Dwayne Smith, who had earlier blasted the KXIP bowling.
CSK were still in the game, when KXIP required 113 of 10 overs. By the end of the 12th over, the score had reached 136/3. Therefore the asking rate was still pretty stiff. The tables were turned in the 13th over from Pawan Negi, who yielded 22 runs. Maxwell departed at 95 off 43 balls with 15 fours and 2 sixes. But Miller was still there and he was joined by another great striker George Bailey. The two of them easily carried KXIP to a deserved 6-wicket victory with 7 balls to spare.
The second match between Rajasthan Royals and Sunrisers Hyderabad lacked the thrill of the earlier game between CSK and KXIP, except that RR’s win came in the last over. Winning the toss, RR asked SRH to bat first. The loss of Aaron Finch in the first over was a blow but David Warner and skipper Shikhar Dhawan shrugged it off and continued until the 12th over, adding 75 for the second wicket. But their departure by the 14th over put the brakes on scoring. Though Lokesh Rahul and Venugopal Rao tried to steady the boat, SRH could not put up a challenging total. Kane Richardson, Kulkarni and Rajat Bhatia bowled well to share 6 wickets equally and SRH ended their innings with 133/6.
Despite the moderate total, SRH managed to contain RR with credit. Abhishek Nayar began with a bang by hitting the first ball from Dale Steyn for four but his adventures lasted just another ball. Steyn trapped him LBW on the third ball. Sanju Samson, who came in next was out in the 4th over to an indiscreet shot and in the 7th, Watson was caught behind for just 3 runs. 31/3 was at this stage brought SRH back into the match. However, Ajinkya Rahane and Stuart Binny carried on until the 16th over, when Rahane got out for 59 scored off 53 balls. Binny continued gamely but the other RR batsmen didn’t apply themselves. Unfortunately for SRH, they had a poor total to defend. The victory came in the 20th over, thanks to Binny’s valiant efforts. The RR score of 135/6 had 107 by Rahane’s 59 and Binny’s 48. Since there were 5 extras, the combined contribution from other RR batsmen was just 23. Though RR won the match their batting didn’t deserve much credit.