When asked on the match eve why he was persisting with wicketkeeper-batsman Wriddhiman Saha when he had MS Dhoni in his squad, Chennai Super Kings coach Stephen Fleming said, "Without giving him a batting opportunity, we cannot assess a player."
In his fourth match of this season, Team India's newest member Saha finally got a chance to display his batting prowess, and showed why Fleming, Dhoni and the CSK management have kept faith him.
The 26-year-old slammed a 33-ball 46 in his first innings of the season, barring the match against the Delhi Dardevils when he came in with two balls left in the innings, to guide the defending champions to a competitive 156 for 6 against the Kochi Tuskers Kerala at the MA Chidambaram stadium here on Wednesday. Saha's late fireworks proved the difference as Kochi managed only 141 for 5, handing the hosts an 11-run win and a place in the play-offs. CSK also kept their home record intact in IPL 4.
The Tuskers' chase received an early setback when skipper Parthiv Patel was sent back in the third over by R Ashwin, who was CSK's standout bowler returning figures of 1/16 in his four overs.
Opener Brendon McCullum struck a patient 37-ball 33, but it was Brad Hodge's unbeaten half-century that kept Kochi in the match. However, the late heroics from the Aussie, dropped by Murali Vijay on 19, weren't enough as Kochi Tuskers' debut IPL campaign ended on a sad note.
Chennai started slowly. Opener Murali Vijay played an RP Singh yorker onto his off stump. Suresh Raina came out with positive intent but fell to S Sreesanth, caught by RP Singh. Next batsman S Badrinath (13) was also caught in the deep by RP Singh. But this catch was far from straightforward.
Badrinath lofted Brad Hodge's innocuous off-spinner to midwicket. RP Singh sprinted from long-on, dived to his right and caught the ball inches from the ground, pulling off one of the catches of the tournament.
Opener Mike Hussey dropped anchor and hit a composed 37-ball 32 before he fell to Ravindra Jadeja, who also had skipper MS Dhoni caught behind.