CHENNAI: The toss rolled Chennai Super Kings’ way. The decision to field first by MS Dhoni was a no-brainer. In the 11 matches during the group stage, only three teams won while batting first at Dubai Sports City, with the last being on September 26. Never mind the tricky nature of the pitch, which has largely been two-paced, for seven straight matches, teams that chased had managed to win. And on such pitches, teams have struggled when it comes to identifying the par-scores. Six of those games went into the last over was largely thanks to the spinners and seamers who have taken the pace of the ball.
The script mostly went the same way on Sunday too, only difference was Delhi posted 172/5, a total which definitely looked par given the attack they have. And after Ruturaj Gaikwad (70) and Robin Uthappa (63) played impressive knocks, Dhoni took Chennai home by four wickets and two balls to spare for a record ninth IPL final appearance.
It could have gone Delhi’s way too, only for them to fall agonisingly short in the end. With 13 to defend in the final over, Rishabh Pant handed the ball to Tom Curran ahead of Kagiso Rabada. While the former had up until the point had a better day with the ball (3-0-16-2), Rabada, despite figures of 3-0-23-0, would have offered pace, something that has troubled Dhoni. Instead, despite losing Moeen Ali in the first ball of the final over, Dhoni’s three successive boundaries gave Chennai their first win over Delhi in five matches.
Delhi will now face the winner of Eliminator 1 (RCB vs KKR) on Wednesday and hope Marcus Stoinis regains fitness as sans the all-rounder, they seem to miss that crucial balance. On a two-pace wicket, Delhi have showed intentions of having as many bowling options as possible and that is the reason they went in with six against Chennai too as they bat deep.
And asked to bat first, opener Prithvi Shaw, who began with top-edged boundary and a six of Josh Hazlewood, led Delhi’s charge.
Even though Shikhar Dhawan and Shreyas Iyer didn’t contribute much, Delhi ended the powerplay at 51/2. And by the 10th over they were 79/3. The dismissal of Shaw in the 11th over forced them to take pedal of the accelerator. Rishabh Pant and Shimron Hetymer, usually reserved for the death overs, were in the middle as the last recognised pair.
The two are daring batsmen, who play T20 cricket they way it should be played, without prize on their wicket, and the situation demanded them to play the distance. They did so without shelving any of their daredevilry, as 11, 7, 14, 13, 12, 11 runs would come from overs 14 to 19 as Delhi finished at 172/5, their highest while batting first and one that appeared a par-total.
And when Anrich Norjte removed Faf du Plessis for 1 in the first-over, they had their tails up, but only for Ruturaj Gaikwad (70) and Robin Uthappa (63) put Chennai firmly in the driver’s seat. Three wickets in 14th and 15th over brought Delhi back into the game, but cameos from Moeen and Dhoni was enough for Chennai to cross the line.
Brief scores: Delhi Capitals 172/5 in 20 ovs (Shaw 60, Pant 51 n.o; Hazlewood 2/29) lost to Chennai Super Kings 173/6 in 19.4 ovs (Ruturaj 70, Uthappa 63).