IPL 2019: Faf du Plessis, Harbhajan Singh power CSK to 22-run win over KXIP
There are computers and then there is MS Dhoni’s acumen. The Chennai Super Kings captain foresaw a battle no one could have, helped raise the par score of 160 on a difficult Chepauk pitch before fielding three spinners to slowly turn the screws on Kings XI Punjab and extract another victory at home. Barring Deepak Chahar’s double no-ball infraction in the penultimate over, everything went like clockwork, almost scripted.
Choosing to set a target against a team that has Chris Gayle, KL Rahul, Mayank Agarwal and David Miller in their ranks requires guts. But Dhoni’s decision was more driven by the Chepauk pitch that was two-paced and taking turn, reminiscent of the track that saw Royal Challengers Bangalore being shot out for a paltry 70 here in the tournament opener.
In hindsight, Kings XI Punjab went into the game one spinner short. Between them, Harbhajan Singh, Imran Tahir and Ravindra Jadeja bowled 12 overs, conceded 61 runs and took two wickets. KXIP’s R Ashwin and Murugan Ashwin bowled eight disciplined overs but only another miserly spell could have kept Chennai’s score in check.
By scoring 54 off 38 deliveries, du Plessis made the most of the conditions when Kings XI Punjab pacers were operating with the new ball. Ask Mohammed Shami who was hammered for 16 runs in his first over. Next was Andre Tye’s turn as he leaked 18 runs in the fifth over. With boundaries difficult to come by, Chennai Super Kings played calculated cricket and took risks in two phases --- the Powerplay that produced 54 runs and the last three that added 44 runs.
Rest of the first innings was all about Messrs Ashwin & Ashwin. They conceded 46 runs and took three wickets, all going to the former Super King who walked his talk of ‘literally owning the space around Chepauk’. At a time when it looked like Chennai were running away with the game, he gave the important breakthrough of Shane Watson.
Successive dismissals of du Plessis and Suresh Raina, both off length balls that merited more caution than impulsive heaves, proved to be the killer blows.
That put the brakes on the scoring till Dhoni went full blast towards the end, clubbing Sam Curran for 19 runs in the penultimate over before settling for 14 in the next bowled by Shami.
Harbhajan took two wickets in three deliveries and it was crystal clear why Dhoni didn’t press for a second run on the last ball of Chennai’s innings. Gayle tried to drive a delivery spinning away from him without moving an inch, giving Dhoni an easy catch. Mayank Agarwal’s approach was befuddling as well, skipping down to play a half-hearted shot.
KL Rahul and Sarfaraz Khan hit fifties but they were unremarkable in the context of the game. Neither paced their innings and were struggling to convert singles into twos. And even though Kings XI had wickets at their disposal, five overs of spin that produced 24 runs suddenly made them stare at an ask of 46 runs from 18 deliveries. Kings XI never had the spunk in them to ace that chase.