Dhoni, Rayudu raze down 206 in blaze of sixes
Chennai Super Kings 207 for 5 (Rayudu 82, MS Dhoni 70*) beat Royal Challengers Bangalore 205 for 8 (De Villiers 68, De Kock 53, Bravo 2-33) by five wickets
Chennai Super Kings picked up their fifth victory through thunderous performances from two heroes - Ambati Rayudu and MS Dhoni - in an explosive performance. They made nearly half of the 206 target with the 17 sixes they hit at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru.
Super Kings survived an AB de Villiers onslaught to recover and chase just a little over 200 - it could've been much more. Then they slipped to 74 for 4 in nine overs, before coming back with blazing 101-run stand between Dhoni and Rayudu. Dwayne Bravo, then set it up for Dhoni to complete a win in his signature style - a six over long-on, thereabouts - to take them back to the top of the table.
The sub-plot was a familiar one for Royal Challengers: they didn't have the bowling to defend, again. They had seven bowling options on the night and their two best bowlers - Yuzvendra Chahal and Umesh Yadav - bowled out their overs for a combined 3 for 49. The two other spinners were given a combined four overs, the better bowler of their two allrounders - Colin de Grandhomme - didn't have a bowl, and, yet again, a glaring lack of a death-overs plan resulted in an embarrassing collapse.
The top does it again for RCB
By the time CSK had got into the third over after electing to bowl, Virat Kohli had figured out his method against the opening bowlers: short strides against Deepak Chahar's swing and a few steps down at Shardul Thakur. He also exchanged notes with Quinton de Kock who aggressively kept gesturing about how Thakur's knuckle ball was coming out.
Thakur managed to pull it back momentarily with a quite remarkable feat - a wicket maiden off a T20 over faced by Kohli and de Villiers - but the bleeding wouldn't stop. De Kock and de Villiers, together, put up 103 for the second wicket from there in under nine overs, starting with a 16-run punishment off three balls that took Harbhajan out for the rest of the innings.
When the ball lost its shine, there did appear to be grip from the surface. But the South African duo weren't averse to using their feet - de Villiers made 45 off his 68 runs against 17 balls of spin - to move laterally in the crease or down the pitch to open up the field. With their abilities to clear the ground in tow, that proved vital, because the spinners were forced into bowling faster than they should have been.
The next breakthrough, the wicket of de Kock in the 14th, also came in a maiden over. It might even have been a double-wicket maiden had CSK reviewed an lbw decision where Bravo got Corey Anderson on the back leg off a full toss. It didn't do too much damage though as Imran Tahir claimed two: de Villiers - 68 off 30 - and Anderson, off consecutive deliveries.
Suddenly, it was turning big. CSK could've had Mandeep Singh, but Dhoni failed to anticipate a spitting turner from Ravindra Jadeja and couldn't get his hand on a stumping opportunity. What followed was a six over midwicket and a reverse-swept four to get Mandeep going. A missed opportunity and Royal Challengers looked like they would capitalise.
But another collapse came. RCB lost seven wickets in the last five overs and played out two maiden overs in the innings. They didn't have the bowling to afford such mishaps.
How to lose a match
RCB had made the perfect start with the ball. Shane Watson, Suresh Raina and Sam Billings, who have all made winning contributions this season, were out inside seven overs and the pitch was allowing big turn. CSK seemed to have given them some help too, when they sent Jadeja ahead of Dhoni at No. 5. That move brought a 15-run fourth-wicket stand that consumed 16 balls.
Umesh had bowled out his overs in a testing opening spell, though, and Chahal would be done in the 13th. The brutal effect of that reality in simple, numerical terms: CSK hit 12 sixes in 64 balls after Dhoni walked in.
Rayudu didn't exactly fly under the radar. Like he had against Sunrisers in Super Kings' previous match, he dealt mainly in flat-batted shots. He was severe on Hyderabad Ranji team-mate Mohammed Siraj, and did not allow Washington Sundar a chance to settle.
At the other end, Dhoni smashed the confidence out of Pawan Negi. Shortly after coming in to bat, he swatted the left-arm spinner over midwicket, and upon his return in the 14th, a visibly nervous Negi fired full ones flat into Dhoni's arc. Two of RCB's spinners had been neutralised on a spin-friendly surface.
That was the beginning of an inevitable death-overs meltdown. With 70 required off 28 balls, Umesh put down a simple chance at extra cover that would have ended Rayudu's innings. It was perhaps the only time Anderson's plan of sliding cross-seam length balls across came close to working. By the end of that over, he was truly found out - Rayudu hit balls from the same line outside off over extra cover and then over midwicket.
At 21 required off seven balls, even if Mohammed Siraj had completed the penultimate over without needing four attempts at the last ball, Anderson didn't look like he would have defended the runs. The allrounder, had gone for 16 and 15 in his two overs before the last one, and conceded 17 runs off four balls to finish with figures of 3.4-0-58-0.
De Grandhomme, brought into the XI on the night, did not feature in Kohli's bowling plans. This meant that Royal Challengers would bowl their last six overs with two bowlers: a strategy scarcely seen in ODI cricket even, which shouldn't have a place in T20 cricket. But it did have a place on the night. And it summed up why RCB's economy in the death-overs this season - 13.29 - is the worst by any team in any edition of the IPL.
Varun Shetty is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo