CHENNAI: Over the IPL’s 14 seasons, no team has successfully hunted down a target off the last ball more often than Chennai Super Kings. Their two-wicket win over Kolkata Knight Riders in Abu Dhabi on Sunday was the seventh such occasion, but they would have ideally liked to avoid those anxious moments in the first place given that they seemed in control for large parts of the run chase. Regardless, they can now let out a wry smile, knowing that their eighth win this season has all but assured them of a spot in the play-offs.
Ravindra Jadeja was at the front and centre of Chennai’s sixth consecutive win in the UAE (going back to three matches at the end of last season), returning with tidy figures of 1/21 from his four overs and then wielding the willow for a 8-ball 22 to help his side reach 172.
In a chase where the pendulum oscillated to-and-fro, the decisive turn came in the 19th over. Delivered by pacer Prasidh Krishna, Jadeja’s hitting ability proved to be key as he smashed the youngster for two sixes and two fours in a 22-run over. From needing 26 off two overs, Chennai needed four from the last over. Even then, there was some huffing and puffing as the phlegmatic Sunil Narine struck twice — removing Sam Curran and Jadeja — and brought it down to one from one.
Deepak Chahar, though, heaved across the line and managed to get a decent enough connection to scamper across for a single. In hindsight, of course, Kolkata can look back and rue many things but the injury to Andre Russell was particularly devastating. The West Indian — who had figures of 3-0-28-1 — was unable to complete his quota of four overs after fielding a ball at the boundary and limping off the field in the 17th over.
In the circumstances, Kolkata coped well. Narine took three wickets while Varun Chakravarthy exhibited exemplary control yet again, notably claiming MS Dhoni’s scalp with a well-disguised googly. As things stand, Dhoni’s record against the Tamil Nadu spinner is unflattering: he has been dismissed three times in three innings and has an average of 3.33.
But it won’t perturb Dhoni. His team has managed to turn things around after the travails of last season. While they have made a couple of changes in personnel, it is their more daring approach in the middle overs in particular that has reaped rewards. Given their batting depth, they seem comfortable with attacking relentlessly even if it comes at the cost of losing a couple of wickets. The stats bear this out: a scoring rate of 7.37 in the middle overs in 2020 has gone up to 8.91 this year.
Brief scores: Kolkata 171/6 in 20 ovs (Tripathi 45, Rana 37 n.o; Thakur 2/20) lost to Chennai 172/8 in 20 ovs (Du Plessis 43, Gaikwad 40; Narine 3/41).