Mike Hussey engineered a mammoth pursuit of 186 runs to enable Chennai Super Kings cling onto another last-over thriller, on this occasion by five wickets with only a ball to spare. But spare a thought for Shane Watson, who before a calamitous last over, was the day’s hero after he notched up this edition maiden ton.
Possibly the best organiser of a run-chase in the IPL, Hussey (88, 51b) combined 90 runs in 10.1 with Suresh Raina to change the match’s complexion after they lost Murali Vijay in the third over. Hussey used his feet well and played some exquisite cover drives, the pick being a boundary through extra-cover off Rahul Shukla. The Australian demonstrated his experience by effectively picking up the gaps and notching up boundaries with ease, especially off Siddharth Trivedi and Kevon Cooper. In only 30 balls, he completed his half-century.
Raina, who chose the right occasion to comeback, did not lag behind. He straight drove Watson for a six and capitalised on anything loose. The duo also ran hard between the wickets, thus ensuring that the required run-rate was always under control.
Raina’s dismissal (51, 35b)—wrapped plumb in front off James Faulkner—saw Hussey accelerate, as boundaries flew thick and fast from his blade. He slog-swept Stuart Binny for two boundaries in an over and later pulled Trivedi to the mid-wicket fence, setting panic in the Rajasthan camp. Often, he took calculated risks, and on a particular instance assaulted Kevon Cooper with three boundaries.
Though Rahul Dravid’s direct hit prevented Hussey from completing a possible hundred, CSK by then was almost home. However, Faulkner dismissed MS Dhoni and Ravindra Jadeja to give Royals some hope. Needing 11 runs from the last over, Dwayne Bravo swung Watson’s third ball over the ropes, ran a couple of doubles and sealed the match for Chennai, who are atop the league with 10 points, courtesy of a better run-rate than the rest.
Then, Rajasthan had only themselves to blame, as their bowlers were obscenely inconsistent, conceding loose balls in plenty. But how crestfallen could Watson be, for his innings (101, 61b, 6X4, 6X6) was a supreme expression of aggression. He was reprieved on 24 by Mohit Sharma, who covered quite a few yards from mid-off, off Chris Morris. But that hardly affected his mood, as he imposed himself on the Chennai bowlers and struck a flurry of boundaries. Chennai bowlers were devoid of idea as he went berserk.
With Ajinkya Rahane, he put on 71 in 7.2 overs. But after Rahane’s dismissal, they marginally slipped before Binny provided impetus with an unbeaten 36 off 22 balls.