The Cheapuk was tense as the game trickled into a nervous stage. It was anybody’s game in the final four overs of the chase. There were big hits flying around and wickets falling at the same time. On a dew-soaked outfield Chennai Super Kings managed to win a tight game of cricket.
Chennai Super Kings managed to storm to 175 in the first innings with a Dhoni special after a top-order failure. Rajasthan Royals walked the same path as they lost three quick wickets, but the middle order got them back into the match. A late carnage by Stokes and Archer wasn’t enough as crucial wickets fell in the final few overs. Rajasthan Royals eventually lost the game by 8 runs.
Ajinkya Rahane won his third consecutive toss, and had no hesitation in bowling first. With the surface on the slower side and dew around, Rahane didn’t want his bowlers to risk it on the field in the second innings. The decision bore benefits early in CSK’s innings. Jofra Archer struck in the second over of the innings when he followed Rayudu with a short one that he edged through to Buttler. Archer started his spell with a lovely wicket-maiden.
Ben Stokes, who was brought on to bowl in the fourth over, responded by having the dangerous Watson caught sharply at short third man. In the following over, Dhawal Kulkarni got rid of Kedar Jadhav, reducing CSK to 27/3 off 5 overs. The wicket brought the experienced duo of Raina and Dhoni together at the crease.
CSK’s most experienced pair stitched together an important partnership for the hosts. They settled in by playing some cautious cricket. At the end of 10 overs, CSK were going at under 6 an over, at 55/3. Raina upped the ante from the 11th over onwards, trying to find the boundary once every over.
The stand was broken by Jaydev Unadkar who bowled a straight ball that Raina missed entirely. The stumps were shattered as Raina departed for a crucial 32-ball 36. Dwayne Bravo took the attack to the Royals as he struck two boundaries early on in his innings, off Stokes. Our bowlers kept it quiet till the 17th over, with CSK managing to 115/4.
Dhoni and Bravo shifted gears in the 18th over when Kulkarni was taken for 24 runs. Archer, as always was bowling the penultimate over of the innings, and conceded just eight runs, claiming Bravo’s wicket in the process. He finished with remarkable figures of 4-1-17-2, going at just over 4 an over.
Jadeja sent Unadkat down the ground for a biggie off the second ball of the final over of the innings. Dhoni, who retained strike, took a liking to Unadkat’s bowling, bludgeoning three sixes to take Chennai’s total to a competitive 175/5 in 20 overs.
Rajasthan Royals’ innings didn’t begin on a positive note either. Ajinkya Rahane lost his wicket off the second ball of the chase as he sliced one up towards backward point. Jadeja dived forward to complete a fine catch. Buttler and Samson seemed to get going as they found a boundary apiece. However, both of them got out off consecutive deliveries. Samson was dismissed by Chahar as Raina took a clean low catch at cover to send the centurion from our previous game back. Jos Buttler tried to loft the ball down the ground off Shardul Thakur, but miscued the ball up beyond mid-off and was caught.
Rahul Tripathi and Steven Smith, who have batted together during their time at Rising Pune Supergiant, got together and steered the chase towards safety with some skilled batting. Smith got going with two back-to-back boundaries and looked in fine touch from the word go. Tripathi got his eye in and freed his arms against Mitchell Santner, carting him for 17 runs off his first over. The duo managed to find at least one boundary in each over till the 11th. They put up 61 runs off 41 balls to veer the chase back on track. Imran Tahir broke the partnership when Tripathi lobbed one back to the bowler in the 10th over. Ben Stokes joined Smith at the crease with the chase in a precarious position.
Smith and Stokes took the chase deeper without playing any risky strokes as they tried to build yet another partnership for the Royals. With the required run rate touching 12, Smith went after a Tahir delivery, and connected the ball on the full, only to send it down the fielder’s throat at long off.
With 65 needed off 30 balls, and the strategic time-out done, Krishnappa Gowtham started the 16th with a massive six off Tahir, over mid-wicket. Tahir managed to pull things back in the remainder of the over, as he conceded 9 from the over in all.
Rajasthan Royals needed 56 runs off 24 balls, as Thakur was given the responsibility to bowl the 17th over. Gowtham departed off the first ball of the over, as he hit one straight to Raina at cover. Archer got going off his very first ball, cutting Thakur through backward point for four. He then ended the over with a muscular hit down the ground for a maximum. The Royals now needed 44 off 18 balls.
Stokes opened his shoulders in the 18th over when a Bravo slower one disappeared over wide long off for six. He put on his innovative hat on the ball, ramping the ball between Dhoni and short fine leg to the fence. Stokes drove a slower one hard, but couldn’t pierce cover, as the third ball yielded just one run. Archer flicked a low full toss through square leg and scampered through for two quick runs. The fifth ball was clobbered by Archer towards the sight screen. After 19 runs being smashed off Bravo’s over the equation came down considerably.
25 needed off 12 balls
Thakur bowled a full delivery to Stokes, but he couldn’t get it away, but the pair rushed through for a single. Jofra wasn’t going to hold back and he swung hard off the second delivery, splicing the ball to third man for a couple. The equation came down to 22 off 10 deliveries.
A slower one from Thakur induced an early pull from Jofra which yielded one run. It was Stokes turn to take centre stage as he swiveled on his back foot, with style written all over the shot, and the ball disappeared in a flash over fine leg for a power-packed six.
The equation came down to 15 off 8 balls, and the momentum seemed to be tilting in Rajasthan Royals’ favour. Stokes kept a calm head on a low full toss by Thakur, placing it past cover for an easy couple. The equation read: 13 off 7 balls. The final ball was mistimed to deep mid-wicket by Stokes for just one run.
13 needed off the final over
The experienced Bravo was given the ball for the final over. Discussions took centre-stage at the Chepauk in the CSK camp and the Royals pair in the middle. Ben Stokes perished off the first ball, drilling it straight to cover where Raina took another good catch in the match. Stokes departed for a well-made 26-ball 46.
Shreyas Gopal walked in to bat with Archer at the other end. Gopal received a short one first up, and couldn’t get bat on ball. The leggie managed to steal a leg bye as the ball ricocheted off his body into the off side. Archer was back on strike with the Royals needing 11 off the final three balls.
Archer mistimed the fourth ball and could pick only one run. Gopal was back on strike with 10 needed off the final 2 balls. Gopal skied one down to third man, losing his wicket.
The Royals lost their third game on the trot, as they fell agonizingly short of the target. We travel home, to Jaipur, for the fourth game where we face Royal Challengers Bangalore who have also not won a single game. Both teams will be eager to get the first victory, come Tuesday, 2nd April in Jaipur.