Left, the right way for Super Kings

Left-arm spinners Jadeja and Santner come together to deliver a crucial victory for Chennai against Punjab Kings
Ravindra Jadeja and Mitchell Santner shared four wickets on Sunday
Ravindra Jadeja and Mitchell Santner shared four wickets on Sunday(Photo | AP/Sportzpics)

CHENNAI: At the halfway mark during the first innings between Chennai Super Kings and Punjab Kings, the scoreboard at the scenic HPCA Stadium, Dharamsala read — CSK 79/4. Super Kings had lost in-form opener and captain Ruturaj Gaikwad, spin-basher Shivam Dube, Daryl Mitchell and Ajinkya Rahane, with Ravindra Jadeja and Moeen Ali in the middle.

If all that is not enough, the news of Matheesha Pathirana’s injury and his return to Sri Lanka came as a serious blow. With Deepak Chahar’s injury already becoming a concern, they were in a tricky place. Chennai needed a win. But at that point, it seemed like they had no business winning the contest against Punjab.

And yet, about three hours later, the yellow team was all smiles. They had not just beaten, but convincingly outplayed the home side to secure a 28-run victory — which took them to third place in the points table (it could still change if Lucknow Super Giants beat Kolkata Knight Riders later in the evening). How did this turnaround happen? Two left-arm spin bowling all-rounders had a significant role to play — Jadeja and Mitchell Santner.

While his last ball four in the 2023 IPL final is etched in the history books, Jadeja’s issues with the bat in the format is no secret. On Sunday, too, his struggle continued early in the innings. But in the 11th over, Jadeja cut loose. He first tonked Harshal Patel down the ground to the shorter boundary and then sliced him behind for another. With Moeen falling a couple of overs later, Jadeja was joined by the other left-arm spinner Santner.

The New Zealander flicked Arshdeep Singh over short fine-leg to break free, but his cameo was short-lived. It was down to Shardul Thakur (MS Dhoni was held back) and Jadeja in the death overs. Thakur did his bit (17 off 11 balls) but Jadeja did more. He got down on one knee to slog sweep Rahul Chahar into the stands and then picked up a four and a six off Arshdeep in the final over. And he did it all despite both Thakur and Dhoni getting out in the penultimate over. Jadeja, too, fell — for 43 from 26 balls — but by that time he had put CSK in a safe position — 167/9 in 20 overs.

However, the job was only half done. Jadeja and Santner still had a role to play with the ball. Santner has been with CSK for the longest time but barely plays for them. Had he been with any other team, he would have been a regular. And what was preventing them from playing him is already having another world-class left-arm spinner in Jadeja.

On Sunday, they had little choice. With all the injury concerns, they were forced to play both Jadeja and Santner and the duo did not disappoint. With Tushar Deshpande setting up the defence by taking two early wickets, Gaikwad turned to the spin duo. Santner, in his first over after the powerplay got rid of Shashank Singh and Jadeja followed suit. He dismissed Prabhsimran Singh first, and then sent back Punjab stand-in skipper Sam Curran and Ashutosh Sharma in the same over. By the time Jadeja was done with his overs, Kings were down to 79/7. Together, Jadeja and Santner had taken four wickets for 30 runs in seven overs. From thereon, it was only a matter of time as Punjab scrapped their way to 139/9, falling short by 28 runs.

On a day when they had too many issues to address, forced to make changes in the playing XI, the two left-armers came together to set up the perfect win for Chennai. One should not be surprised if it becomes the beginning of something new with Jadeja and Santner taking the field regularly.

Brief scores: CSK 167/9 in 20 ovs (Jadeja 43; Chahar 3/23, Harshal 3/24) bt PBKS 139/9 in 20 ovs (Prabhsimran 30, Shashank 27; Jadeja 3/20).

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