Match: Kings XI Punjab vs Chennai Super Kings in Mohali
Result: Chennai Super Kings won by 10 wickets
Narrative: MS Dhoni won the toss and inserted the Kings XI in to bat first. Despite losing wickets at regular intervals, it looked like Kings XI were headed for a 180+ total, when David Hussey and Gurkeerat Singh were at the crease and scoring runs freely. Then at the start of the 14th over, Hussey holed out to long off which triggered an inexplicable collapse. Bravo and new man Chris Morris joined hands to pick off the remaining batsmen, as Kings XI lost their last seven wickets for 32 runs. Still, a target of 139 should have been tricky considering the performance of the Kings XI bowlers in the last game. Instead, Michael Hussey (aka Mr Cricket) and Murali Vijay (aka Monk) gave a batting exhibition worthy of their monikers to take the Super Kings to a crushing 10 wicket victory in the 18th over. It was not without drama of course as a dicey third umpire decision, a dropped catch and a missed stumping all went in favor of the CSK openers; yet it was a dominating performance by the visitors as they outclassed the hosts in all departments of the game.
Analysis: Going into this game, the Super Kings were at the bottom of the table while the Kings XI were at the top; both unfamiliar positions for the teams. Soon, order was restored though. Kings XI kept scoring runs freely in the first half of their innings but they also lost three of their top order batsmen in the process. Once Hussey got out, the Super Kings showed why they are so good by packing off the rest in clinical fashion. Vijay’s dropped catch early on in the innings was the only blemish, as the men in yellow were flawless on the field for the rest of the time. Even Ashwin took a spectacular diving catch. It was that kind of night. Also impressive was the bowling performance of Chris Morris, the South African all rounder who replaced Laughlin in the XI. With Bravo and Albie Morkel sealing the positions of two overseas all-rounders in the XI, it will be hard for Morris to retain his place when Morkel is fully fit; still, he has not done any harm to his chances and his performances with the bat will be closely watched.
What is left to be said about Michael Hussey? For a man who has stepped away from the highest levels of the game, he still plays with a lot of passion and skill, which his compatriots sorely lacked in the past couple of months. A strike rate of 159 might indicate that he threw his bat around, but his innings was anything but slam-bang. Placement, timing and right shot selection – that was all it took for a commanding 86 off 54 balls. His partner Murali Vijay played a very sensible knock with a sedate run-a-ball 50; his performance in the recent Test series has seemed to have changed his mentality and it showed as he willing to bide his time and give his partner the support he needed. All these augur well for the Super Kings as they head for tougher contests in the coming weeks.
Preview: Next up is the game against the Royal Challengers Bangalore, who are probably the most impressive team of this edition so far. Chris Gayle is always a perennial danger, but now the likes of Kohli, de Villiers and Henriques are doing their own part too. While Murali will not play in Chennai, the likes of Vettori, Kartik, Vinay Kumar and RP Singh will prove to be tougher for the CSK batsmen. How the men in yellow fare against them will give an early clue to how well the team have shaken off their rustiness. Either way, it should make for a terrific contest.
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(Pictures courtesy of ESPNCricinfo and IPLT20.com)