VISAKHAPATNAM: This port city was like home away from home for Chennai Super Kings on Friday. Not just because the ACA-VDCA Stadium was filled with yellow jerseys and they were chanting “MSD, MSD” even when he was warming up. The pitch also seemed similar to Chepauk. It had a bit of turn, something that Chennai prefer.
Making full use of it, MS Dhoni invited Delhi Capitals to bat and used his spinners with characteristic aplomb. Delhi’s youngsters could not muster more than 147/9, which Chennai chased down with six deliveries and six wickets to spare.
The win put Chennai in the IPL final for a record eighth time. They will face Mumbai Indians in the summit clash in Hyderabad on Sunday. Though Faf du Plessis and Shane Watson scored exactly 50 apiece to help their team reach the target without much fuss, it was the bowlers who won the match for the defending champions. “Credit goes to the bowlers. The captain only asks this is what I need. It’s upto them to figure out how to bowl. Thanks to the bowling department for where we are this season,” Dhoni was generous in praise.
Eyebrows were raised when Dhoni dropped Murali Vijay to bring in an extra pacer in Shardul Thakur. But it also meant the skipper was once again showing faith in his bowlers in a crucial fixture. As it turned out, they did the trick.
Shikhar Dhawan had made over 500 runs before this clash, but Dhoni knew his weaknesses against spinners. The left-hander had been dismissed nine times by them this season. So Harbhajan Singh was introduced early into the attack. Eight of his 14 wickets before this game had come inside the power play period. It became nine in his very first over, as Dhawan was sent back.
Prithvi Shaw’s batting in the Eliminator suggested he was back in form. But the opener was done in by Deepak Chahar when Dhoni successfully appealed for DRS. With power play restrictions over and Colin Munro in, one would have expected Imran Tahir or Dwayne Bravo to bowl. But Dhoni had other plans. Despite Ravindra Jadeja averaging 61 against left-handers, he brought him on in the seventh over. Munro’s stay was cut short when his mistimed slog sweep gave Jadeja his first wicket of the day.
It was up to Shreyas Iyer and Rishabh Pant to take the team to a good total. But one knows what Tahir can do. The leg-spinner went for nine off his first over but got Iyer. It was a googly which didn’t turn much, but surprised the batsman with bounce. Delhi’s middle-order woes continued as they kept losing wickets. Pant top-scored with a 25-ball 38 and the last five overs produced 54 runs. But it was never going to be enough against an experienced batting line-up.
“No batsman took the initiative to get the team through and there wasn’t a partnership building. Disappointing but a good learning,” said Iyer.