Match: Kolkata Knight Riders vs Chennai Super Kings in Kolkata
Result: Chennai Super Kings won by 4 wickets
Kolkata Knight Riders batted first and Gambhir opened with a new partner in Yusuf Pathan. The move seemed to have worked as KKR raced to 46 in 6 overs, as they take full toll of Albie Morkel in particular. It took a Hussey special at third man to trigger a slide, as Gambhir was the first one to get dismissed. Two balls later, a direct hit from Badri sent Kallis on his way without facing a delivery; Morgan and Pathan followed quickly, and just like that KKR had lost 4 wickets for 9 runs in the space of 13 deliveries. Tiwary and Das staged a mini fight-back, but once Ashwin scalped both of them in consecutive overs, Jadeja picked three other lower order wickets as KKR stalled to 119/9 from their allotted overs.
In response, Dhoni surprised everyone by sending Ashwin to open the innings with Hussey. The move didn’t totally work out as Narine broke the opening partnership in the fifth over. Soon, errors of judgment accounted for both Vijay and Raina, and CSK were staring at a familiar top order failure. It turned into dire straits when Dhoni was dismissed with the target still 66 runs away and 51 deliveries remaining. Hussey stood solid at one end, but his slow scoring seemed to hurt CSK as the required rate kept creeping up. The arrival of Jadeja at the fall of Badri’s wicket changed all that. Twenty too balls later, Jadeja stood tall with an unbeaten 36 from 14 deliveries as he stole another win for CSK.
First of all, let me just state for the record that sometimes it can be frustrating to be a fan of the men in yellow. They always seem to push themselves into a situation where they need a minor miracle to win a game. Despite the target being a paltry 120, the batsmen batted themselves into a situation where they needed 50 from the last five overs. That they won is another matter; it is high-risk tactic for CSK despite their depth in batting, and it might not come off in a given crucial encounter.
A few words of praise for the fielding. In a tournament which has seen a dramatic improvement in fielding standards from last year’s edition, it is good to see that the Super Kings are one of the finest exponents of it. Hussey’s well judged catch, Badri’s direct hit when he had one stump to aim at, Bravo’s fielding and throw for run out (off his own bowling) – all this would make the fielding coach Steve Rixon a proud man.
The bowling seems to be fine-tuned with the exception of one specialist bowler. Nannes’ injury had opened the way for Morkel, who has not really inspired confidence; even the rookie Mohit Sharma is bowling better than him. Apart from that, the consistency of Morris and the spinners is reassuring.
Murali Vijay and Suresh Raina continue to be a source of concern for Fleming and Dhoni. Their attacking style is supposed to bookend the likes of Hussey and Badrinath, who play more of a stabilizing role in the side. Their failures have been the cause of the batting stutters so far in this tournament, and it has required Dhoni and Jadeja to bail them out often. It is highly likely that one of them will be missing from the playing XI for next game.
Ravindra Jadeja is turning out to be CSK’s most valuable player this season. With the ball, he is miserly and keeps picking up wickets. On the field, he is a live-wire, saving precious runs. And now, he has taken over from Dhoni, as the team’s savior with the bat for the second time in a week. In a team full of stars, the Rockstar is the man dragging the team to the top of the table.
Preview of next game:
Next up, CSK take on the Rajasthan Royals aka Dravid’s men in Chennai. The Royals have been one of the consistent teams this year, despite the lack of big stars in their line-up. What they do have is a bunch of performers who combine well enough to win most games; Watson, Rahane, Dravid and Hodge with the bat; and Cooper/Tait, Trivedi, Sreesanth and Chandila with the ball – CSK will do well to re-jig their strategy accordingly.
Tweet of the game: