Chennai Super Kings (CSK) needed a performance like this to get their belief back. For a team used to winning T20 matches, they were having a fallow period. Last season was poor, followed by a defeat against Delhi Capitals in their opening game in this year’s Indian Premier League (IPL).
As MS Dhoni said at the toss on Friday, “it’s a mental game”. The three-time champions returned to winning ways in style, thumping Punjab Kings by six wickets. After restricting their opponents to 106/8, Super Kings romped home with 26 balls to spare.
Inspirational shows lift a team going through a lean patch. Deepak Chahar did that with the ball, claiming 4/13 in four overs. Ravindra Jadeja did that in the field, with a super run-out and a diving catch. On the night, Super Kings were almost blemishless, save a dropped catch by Ruturaj Gaikwad to give Chris Gayle a life. Dhoni was ahead of the game with his captaincy. His team was ahead of time, finishing 20 overs in 87 minutes, two strategic time-outs and a couple of run-out referrals included.
Sultan of swing
Credit to the Wankhede curator for producing pitches that are keeping bowlers in the game. The tinge of green on the surface helped the ball move off it.
Chahar was in the Indian T20 squad for the home series against England but didn’t get a game. He looked rusty in the first match. On the night, he was the sultan of swing.
It was important for the medium pacer to make a good start.
He managed to get the seam position right from the word go. Good-length outswinger was his stock ball in the first over and he bowled one to Mayank Agarwal with such precision that the Punjab opener became a sitting duck. The ball started around the middle stump and swung enough to hit the top of off stump. Agarwal, crease-bound, had no answer to the peach. To make matters worse, he closed the bat-face.
Chahar should have had Gayle also in that over with another outswinger to the left-hander. But Gaikwad at backward point dropped a regulation catch. Over to Jadeja, who took matters into his own hands to make up for the youngster’s fielding error. KL Rahul ignored the statutory warning of not taking chances against arguably the world’s best outfielder and perished.
Gayle had inside-edged a Chahar delivery onto the pad and was hesitant about going for a single. But the Punjab captain pushed through, as Jadeja swooped from short cover. He had one stump to aim at and the zing bails flashed, with Rahul still about six inches short of his crease.
Super Kings started to believe and Chahar had his tail up. He removed Gayle with a knuckle-ball that also had a slight bend. The batsman played early and Jadeja once again swooped from short cover, dived forward and took the catch. Nicholas Pooran was caught off guard by a well-directed short delivery and was holed out to Shardul Thakur at long leg.
Punjab were 26/4 at the end of Powerplay. Dhoni decided to bowl Chahar through and the latter dismissed Deepak Hooda, done in by a fine piece of planning. The Super Kings captain kept two slips, pushed the mid-off straighter and left the extra cover region vacant. The ball swung from outside off and as Hooda targeted the vacant region, he wasn’t in the right position to play the shot. Faf du Plessis at mid-off got a sitter. In his 200th game for Super Kings, Dhoni was still working his captaincy magic. Chahar, on the other hand, had a wicket-maiden, which saw dot balls (18) outnumber runs conceded (13) in his spell.
Amid the ruins, Shahrukh Khan, a Chennai boy and a Rs 5.25-crore buy at the auction, showed composure. That was the only silver lining in Punjab’s batting cloud.
Faf-Moeen guide chase
Defending such a paltry total, Punjab needed early wickets. They had Mohammed Shami’s class and Jhye Richardson’s swing at their disposal. Gaikwad fell cheaply, but du Plessis carried the bat to ensure that the chase was hiccup-free.
A delightful cover drive for a four and a lap-swept six from du Plessis off Richardson gave Super Kings’ innings early impetus. Moeen, the glorious driver, caressed Riley Meredith’s deliveries to the fence. Moeen’s 31-ball 46 provided the spark. Du Plessis’ 33-ball 36 not out offered stability. Three quick wickets towards the end and a hat-trick chance for Shami created some excitement. But Super Kings already had it done and dusted.
Brief scores: Punjab Kings 106/8 in 20 ovs (Shahrukh Khan 47, 36b, 4×4, 2×6; Deepak Chahar 4/13, 18 dots) lost to Chennai Super Kings 107/4 in 15.4 ovs (Faf du Plessis 36*, 33b, 3×4, 1×6; Moeen Ali 46, 31b, 7×4, 1×6; Mohammed Shami 2/21, 11 dots.