Throwing away the advantage has been a bane that Rajasthan Royals have often failed to do away in this IPL. Choosing to bat on a two-paced Ranchi pitch that occasionally kept low, they looked on top after getting 102 runs in 13 overs. The next seven overs, they could only muster 46.
The Chennai Super Kings’ plan was simple — bowl straight and not give any pace to the big hitters. Rajasthan batsmen did the rest for the yellow shirts.
Take the case of the unknown Ankit Sharma, one of three changes Rajasthan made in this game. He showed that playing across the line could confuse R Ashwin, who continued to lob pies at the same spot to the left-hander from over the wicket. Ashwin went for 17 runs in the sixth over, including a huge six over mid-wicket, prompting him to go back to round the wicket. But then Ankit literally gifted his wicket, holing out at long-on to a long hop delivery.
Watson was guilty of the same crime. Having batted himself into some fine form, aided by Vijay Shankar’s inexperienced gentle pace that Watson carted across the ground to produce a 19-run 10th over, the Royals captain was all set to play a long and decisive innings.
But in his eagerness to accelerate, Watson first ran out Ajinkya Rahane before being castled by Mohit Sharma’s straight delivery. Having reached his fifty with a six by pulling Mohit just the previous delivery, Watson’s shot selection could be questioned.
Like Watson, Steve Smith too fell in the same trap. Probably basking in his Bangalore heroics, Smith departed trying to be cheeky. To Mohit’s credit, he kept bowling wicket-to-wicket leaving it to the batsmen to commit errors. In the process, he also became the leading wicket-taker of the IPL with 18 scalps. Along with Jadeja, Mohit ensured the Royals didn’t cross 150.
The pitch got slower under lights but CSK opener Dwayne Smith had no problem as he warmed up with a six off Ankit, who opened the bowling too, before heaving James Faulkner for two over-boundaries.
Ankit proved to be a surprise though. The similarity in his dismissals of Brendon McCullum and Suresh Raina, both sweeping to fielders, suggested they could have been plotted. Otherwise, he was miserly too, conceding just 20 runs.
But it was Smith’s wicket, top-edging a slow and short delivery from Devon Cooper that raised hopes for the Royals. The key, at this point of the run chase, was when MS Dhoni would come.
The Super Kings however sent Ashwin up. On a deteriorating pitch, Ashwin consumed 16 deliveries to score only 14 even as Faf du Plessis continued to place the ball in the gaps.
By uprooting the stumps of du Plessis with a yorker, Faulkner ensured the match went down to the wire. In typical flamboyant style, Dhoni survived a close run out, slammed a six and then cantered to victory to show yet again that the time of his entry was perfect.