In the battle between the two hitherto undefeated sides, Royals proved a decisive superiority over Chennai Super Kings, when the two teams met at Ahmedabad’s Motera Stadium on Sunday afternoon. Packed with great batting power, CSK rightly chose to bat rather than slog in the sweltering summer heat of Western India. Only the other day, they had made Mumbai Indians’ 180+ score look like trash by mounting a terrific assault and disappointing a huge congregation of MI fans at Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium. Brendon McCullum and Dwayne Smith have been in great form and they were expected to meet little resistance from the RR bowlers. But games change from day-to-day and it turned out to be a different Sunday for CSK at Ahmedabad. After the wily Pravin Tambe accounted for the bombastic Brendon McCullum, CSK lost Raina du Plessis and Smith and they tottered at 65/4 in the tenth over. They were finally rescued by the 5th wicket unfinished stand of 91 between Dwayne Bravo and MS Dhoni. Rajasthan Royals had to chase the victory target of 157, which they did in great style. Playing his first match for RR, Shane Watson came up with a blistering knock of 73 off 47 ball, studded with 6 fours and 4 sixes. Together with the Player-of-the-match Ajinkya Rahane, Watson added 144 for the first wicket and ensured that Royals emerged victorious without any hassles.
Batting first was a straightforward decision for Dhoni, when he won the toss. This IPL season, the CSK openers have been in great form, Suresh Raina broke free against Mumbai and Dhoni has been a regular scorer. In middle and lower order, Dwayne Bravo, du Plessis and Ravindra Jadeja are capable of pushing the score. CSK have also a 200-plus score to their credit and therefore, no eyebrows were raised, when Dhoni opted to bat first. But Rajasthan Royals had a scheme of their own. They began with Ankit Sharma to bowl McCullum but Sharma yielded 9 off his first, including two boundaries to the Kiwi batsman. Then RR brought in Pravin Tambe early to tackle McCullum. The explosive New Zealander can force the pace bowlers but Tambe had his own brand of bowling. Of the first ball, McCullum drove straight back. The flying hit passed Tambe as he made a vain attempt to catch it but the shot was struck with raw power. Tambe’s next ball was slower and flatter and even as McCullum tried a mighty heave, he couldn’t middle it properly and James Faulkner gobbled him at mid-on. It was a huge breakthrough for RR but they didn’t relent. In the 6th over, Raina nibbled at Chris Morris and was caught behind. In the 6th over, RR took the third wicket to send du Plessis off the field, when the batsman was brilliantly caught at the fence by Morris. Dwayne Smith, who was sealing the one end, also fell in the 10th over after scoring a 29-ball 40. CSK were in trouble with such a low score at the halfway mark. Dwayne Bravo and MS Dhoni assumed control from there and carried on until the end. Somehow, the RR bowlers didn’t allow them too much liberty towards the close but the pair still added 91 as CSK finished at 156/4.
The RR openers Shane Watson and Ajinkya Rahane began by stroking freely. The target of 157 was never going to trouble them and the opening stand of 144 in itself was enough to end all hopes for CSK. Both batsmen scored breezy seventies that nearly matched each other in stroke-making. There was nothing left to do for any other RR batsman even after Watson got out for a 47-ball 73. Rahane remained unbeaten on 76 scored off 55 balls. Towards the close, RR also lost Steve Smith but it was inconsequential since scores were already tied and several balls remained. In the end, RR’s fifth consecutive win turned out to be a literal walk in the park.