Classy KL Rahul misses ton, eases Punjab Kings to win over Chennai Super Kings

  • MS Dhoni’s side, already in the playoffs, even got to a modest total only due to Faf du Plessis’ 76 as PK bowlers impressed. Rahul then hit 98* for a six-wicket win.
KL Rahul of Punjab Kings and Mayank Agarwal of Punjab Kings during match 53 of the Indian Premier League between the Chennai Super Kings and Punjab Kings at the Dubai International Stadium in the United Arab Emirates, Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021.(PTI)
KL Rahul of Punjab Kings and Mayank Agarwal of Punjab Kings during match 53 of the Indian Premier League between the Chennai Super Kings and Punjab Kings at the Dubai International Stadium in the United Arab Emirates, Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021.(PTI)
Published on Oct 07, 2021 08:07 PM IST
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ByRasesh Mandani

A stand-out innings from Punjab Kings skipper KL Rahul, who smashed an astonishing 42-ball 98*, proved the difference against Chennai Super Kings in the first of two double-headers on Thursday. PK’s six-wicket victory in 13 overs brought them up to fifth on the points table and dropped CSK down to third, giving Royal Challengers Bangalore an outside chance to finish in the top two if they can win handsomely against toppers Delhi Capitals on Friday.

Punjab began well by winning the toss and choosing to chase, more for tactical reasons. In the first half of PK’s bowling performance, their medium-pacers executed to perfection their pre-match plans of using the short ball against CSK batters. Every time a CSK batter fell, their bowlers would run to Rahul with a “I told you so” expression. He would nod and clap in approval. Three of the four CSK wickets that fell in the first 10 overs were to short balls.

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Both the in-form Ruturaj Gaikwad and Robin Uthappa were caught in the deep playing awkward pull shots in the powerplay. While Mohammed Shami was the most economical, Arshdeep Singh and Chris Jordan got amongst the wickets. Even Ambati Rayudu holed out to deep point while slashing hard a Jordan delivery, reducing CSK to 42/4 in the ninth over. It was then up to old pros MS Dhoni and Faf du Plessis to try and retrieve the situation.

DHONI’s LAST IPL?

At the toss, Dhoni dropped a strong hint that this could be his last IPL. “You can see me in yellow (next year), but whether I'll be playing for CSK, there are a lot of uncertainties around it,” he said. “There are two new teams coming up and we don't know the retention policy. So, we will wait for it to happen and hopefully it will be good for everyone.”

Dhoni has had a forgettable season with the bat. His IPL strike rate (95) since 2019 has been the worst of all batters against spin. He was greeted with spin and tried to hit his way out. Dhoni did get a couple of connections against some wide flighted ones from Ravi Bishnoi to raise hopes he could yet rediscover form. But the crafty youngster was up to the task, soon Dhoni getting clean bowled (12) off a googly. A few days back, Dhoni had spoken of a possible farewell in Chennai. Connecting the dots, it could well be that we may see a solitary Dhoni swansong match on home turf in 2022, but no longer a full season.

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While 40-year-old Dhoni’s batting struggles can be understood given he plays no cricket other than IPL, his decision to keep Ravindra Jadeja down to No. 7 has hurt CSK. When Jadeja did come on to bat, he proved to be an ideal foil for top-scorer du Plessis in their 67-run sixth-wicket partnership. Du Plessis successfully changed gears in the death overs, hammering six boundaries in the final four, getting on top of and under any lengths the PK bowlers bowled. He was dismissed in the final over to a tired shot against a Shami short ball for 76 (55b, 8x4, 2x6) but managed to lift CSK to 134.

RAHUL SHINES

Unlike in the India blues, Rahul (7x4, 8x6) opens for PK with a hands-tied approach and tries to bat through. In Dubai, he let go of all his inhibitions in an attempt to chase down the target quickly and keep alive the slimmest mathematical chance they had to make the playoffs.

In a classy exhibition of clean boundary striking, Rahul took down all CSK bowlers –pace on, pace off or spin to complete a 25-ball fifty in the eighth over. PK promoted the likes of big hitters Sarfaraz Khan and Sharukh Khan with an intention to romp home quickly. Both got out early, finding it difficult to hit out on a two-paced surface.

But Rahul was in such sublime form that with flick of wrists, angled blades and many stand-up-and-deliver strokes, he simply kept going. Forcing the bowlers into unforced errors, Rahul batted in top gear throughout, scoring 70% of PK’s runs. He took the team home with an emphatic pull that landed beyond the mid-wicket boundary, finishing two short of a hundred. He tops the batting charts with 626 runs, 80 ahead of second-placed du Plessis.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Rasesh Mandani loves a straight drive. He has been covering cricket, the governance and business side of sport for close to two decades. He writes and video blogs for HT.

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