CHENNAI: Ahead of the match against Sunrisers Hyderabad, Chennai Super Kings could get a maximum of 16 points by winning all their remaining matches and thereby, had a mathematical chance of making it to the playoffs depending on other outcomes.
So the tie against SRH was a must-win game and they were also looking to ensure a handsome win, keeping the net run rate in mind (something that could come into play).
With Ravindra Jadeja handing over the captaincy back to MS Dhoni, CSK were hopeful for a turnaround.
The crucial game against Hyderabad was billed by many as Kane Williamson's pace battery comprising of the likes of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, T Natarajan, Marco Jansen, Umran Malik versus CSK batting.
In the last edition of the IPL, both Faf du Plessis and Ruturaj Gaikwad had kept scoring in turns in crucial games and had helped CSK bag the title. With Faf in the RCB camp and Ruturaj yet to discover the form of the last season, CSK have found it difficult to get off to good starts and register big partnerships.
Robin Uthappa, Shivam Dube and Ambati Rayudu have also been inconsistent. Moeen Ali and Ravindra Jadeja, the two spin-bowling all-rounders, are yet to play to potential.
Ahead of Sunday's vital tie, CSK coach Stephen Fleming had said that he was hopeful that the CSK batting can click as a unit and also wanted one player to take the game deep till the end.
Keeping in mind the situation, CSK dropped Shivam Dube and Dwayne Bravo and brought in Devon Conway and Simarjeet Singh. Those changes worked as half-centuries by Ruturaj (99) and Conway (85 not out) enabled CSK to post 202 for 2 in 20 overs.
The duo added 182 runs for the first wicket in 17.5 overs and put their team in a solid position.
Put into bat, Ruturaj and Conway began the proceedings on a positive note and runs started to flow from the meat of the blade. To counter genuine fast bowling, one needs to bring the cut, pull and hook into their range of play. That is exactly what Conway and Ruturaj did. Conway pulled Bhuvneshwar to the square leg fence for a four and Ruturaj did the same against Jansen over long leg for a six to show their intent as CSK reached 40/0 at the end of powerplay.
A wide slash off Umran marked Ruturaj's 50. Confidence was visible in Ruturaj's play as he continued to find the gaps. Conway played the perfect foil at the other end to lend solid support as the CSK openers made merry and posted 151 runs in less than 15 overs. It was not all about hitting as the opening duo did show excellent understanding while running between the wickets too.
The only miss was perhaps Ruturaj missing a century after getting so close. Eager to reach the magical figure, he mistimed the ball and scooped it to Bhuvneshwar at backward point off the bowling of T Natarajan.
Chasing 203, Abhishek Sharma and Kane Williamson began the chase in an aggressive manner. Newcomer Simarjeet erred in line and length and was thus hit all over the park. His first spell of two overs cost 24 runs.
Thereafter, Mukesh Chaudhary, who had dropped Abhishek on 20, made up for his lapse to get rid of the Hyderabad opener and also sent Rahul Tripathi back in the very next ball.
SRH skipper Kane Williamson (47) and Nicholas Pooran (64 not out) played well but that was not enough. In the end, CSK were the victors by 13 runs.
Brief Scores: Chennai Super Kings 202/2 in 20 overs (Gaikwad 99, Conway 85 n.o) bt Sunrisers Hyderabad 189/6 in 20 overs (Williamson 47, Pooran 64; Choudhary 4/46)