If there were some old wounds for Chennai Super Kings (CSK) to overcome from their sojourn in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) last year, there was no better way to do so than registering victory against arch-rivals Mumbai Indians to mark the resumption of IPL 2021.
The leading protagonist of Chennai's 20-run win on Sunday was Ruturaj Gaikwad, whose unbeaten 88 set the platform for a turnaround after a shaky beginning to the night. The Chennai bowlers then played their part, with Deepak Chahar, in particular, showing his effectiveness with tidy figures of 4-0-19-2.
The only note of concern will be that Chahar had to walk off the field after 18 overs owing to possible cramps. Opting to bat first, the Men in Yellow had to endure a horror start as they were reduced to 24/4 after six overs with Faf du Plessis, Moeen Ali, Suresh Raina and MS Dhoni back in the dugout. It was effectively 24/5 with a blow on the elbow also forcing Ambati Rayudu to retire hurt. While they had no retort when faced with such situations last year, the fact that they were able to bounce back on Sunday should hold them in good stead going forward.
They now have six wins in eight games and just need two more victories from their remaining six league games to confirm a berth in the play-offs. Mumbai Indians, who were without Rohit Sharma and Hardik Pandya for this game, should not be unduly worried either.
The opening exchanges in Dubai on Sunday were identical to Chennai's 10-wicket thrashing at the hands of Mumbai last year, when they were reduced to 30/6 and 43/7 at one stage before recovering to a total of 114/9. Unlike last year though, when Gaikwad was out for 0 to precipitate the collapse, the 24-year-old from Pune steadied the ship before launching into a timely assault in the second half of the innings. He batted through the 20 overs and returned unbeaten on 88 off 58 balls, helping Chennai to a total of 156-6. Chennai's fightback with the bat began with a partnership of 81 off 64 balls between Gaikwad and Ravindra Jadeja. They allowed a few quiet overs to pass at the start of their alliance before flicking a switch in the 12th over.
With Krunal Pandya not being a big turner of the ball, they decided to take their chances and took 18 runs off the over. Gaikwad stepped out to hit a six straight down the ground before hitting another boundary with a cheeky reverse sweep to end the over. That seemed to set Gaikwad on his way, as the opening batsman exhibited his delightful timing to keep the CSK dugout in good spirits. He didn’t spare Bumrah either, managing to second-guess the ace death bowler’s intentions on a couple of occasions to send the ball soaring beyond the boundary hoardings.
The trademark insouciance of Dwayne Bravo was the icing on the cake towards the end as the all-rounder joined in on the act with a 8-ball 23, dealing harshly with the left-arm pace of Boult in the 19th over that went for 24 runs. The opener must be chuffed at having begun well in the UAE after the tumultuous campaign that he had to endure last year.
Infected by Covid before the tournament, he had a trial by fire at the start of the tournament with a string of low scores resulting in him being dropped from the side. He got another look-in only when Chennai’s chances of qualifying for the play-offs had all but ended, but then capitalised on those opportunities. He is now far more assured and comfortable in his own skin, with his debut for India in the T20I format a couple of months ago a testament to his progress.
Chennai Super Kings 156/6 in 20 overs (Ruturaj 88*, Jadeja 26, Milne 2-21) bt Mumbai Indians 136/8 in 20 overs (Tiwary 50*, Bravo 3/25, D Chahar 2/19).