After du Plessis plays a good hand and Dhoni makes his experience count, Harbhajan steps in with crucial strikes
There were moments when this did not appear Chennai Super Kings’ day. Whipping up another moment of wizardry, M.S. Dhoni swooped on the ball and scored a direct hit with a trademark flick-back. The bails, however, were not dislodged.
Kings XI Punjab’s K.L. Rahul, on 41 then, was caught short of the crease but survived. But then, champion teams make their own luck.
The new kid in the CSK ranks, Scott Kuggeleijn, prised out Rahul (55), taken in the deep with a slower back-of-a-length ball in the 18th over.
Then, things seemed to go horribly wrong for the host, defending 160, at the start of the penultimate over. Deepak Chahar sent down two successive no-balls. For once, anger was visible on Captain Cool’s visage as Dhoni was locked in an animated discussion with Chahar.
Array of yorkers
And how the swing bowler responded! He bowled a succession of searing yorkers and canny slower balls before knocking back the dangerous David Milller’s leg-stump with a full delivery that reverse swung.
Chahar had displayed character under duress and the contest was sealed. With 26 required off the final over, Kuggeleijn held his nerve and CSK clinched this IPL face-off by 22 runs.
The 110-run stand in 93 balls for the third wicket between Rahul and Sarfraz Khan (67) kept Kings in the hunt, but the side could not deliver the big blows at the finish.
The duel between Chris Gayle and Harbhajan ended soon. The experienced off-spinner won this one, flighting and luring the West Indian southpaw to doom with a delivery that turned.
Soon, Harbhajan, adjudged Man-of-the-Match, deceived Mayank Agarwal in flight to force a miscue. Rahul, driving gorgeously, and Sarfaraz, striking some hefty blows, set up a platform but CSK shut the door.
CSK, this time around, was not powerless in the PowerPlay overs after winning the toss. The host raced to 54 without loss in the first six overs with Faf du Plessis partnering Shane Watson on this occasion. The South African, displaying timing and poise, pierced the gaps during his 38-ball 54.
A resurgent Kings pegged back the run-rate with the two Ashwins from Chennai conceding just 46 in their eight overs. R. Ashwin varied his pace, harnessed the angles and used the carrom ball cleverly. Leg-spinner M. Ashwin extracted bounce from a high-arm action and there was some turn for him too.
It was advantage Kings, but Dhoni took flight again at Chepauk with which his relationship is symbiotic. He scored an unbeaten 37 off 23 balls to take the team to a total that proved adequate.