Determined Chennai surge to top spot
Chennai Super Kings 152 for 5 (Saha 46, Hussey 32) beat Kochi Tuskers Kerala 141 for 5 (Hodge 51*, McCullum 33) by 11 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
The MA Chidambaram Stadium continued to be a fortress that couldn't be breached, as Chennai sealed a seventh straight win at home to end Kochi Tuskers Kerala's maiden IPL campaign on a disappointing note. The win for the hosts was the only constant on an otherwise unusual day in Chennai. To begin with, it was not oppressively hot on a summer's day; the pitch played slow and low and Kochi bowled with discipline to limit a power-packed batting line-up to a gettable total. The home side found an unlikely hero in Wriddhiman Saha, who seized on a promotion and an early let-off to play a decisive cameo. Lapses by Parthiv Patel, the replacement captain, with the gloves, and Kochi's struggles to step it up in the chase, meant Chennai's score of 152 was more than adequate.
For those who witnessed Adam Gilchrist's ruthless onslaught against Royal Challengers Bangalore on Tuesday, this was a slightly laborious affair. The Kochi bowlers varied their lengths well and did not offer too many scoring opportunities; the seamers refrained from doling out length deliveries, while Muttiah Muralitharan prompted caution. Each time the hosts tried to improvise and go on the attack, they were pegged back by a wicket, earned by Kochi rather than handed out.
M Vijay smashed RP Singh for three boundaries in the third over, but was cleaned up by a perfectly-aimed yorker off the final ball. Suresh Raina was dropped by Parthiv first ball, and Sreesanth, the frustrated party, was made to rue that lapse with two huge sixes over long-on. But the bowler hit back in the same over, when Raina miscued a full toss. S Badrinath smashed a six over midwicket, but was caught brilliantly off the next ball when RP dived full length in the deep to pluck a catch inches from the ground. Saha, though, bucked the trend.
In a contrast to his senior partner Michael Hussey, who was tied down by the steady fall of wickets and his own struggle to push on, Saha infused some urgency in the Chennai innings after surviving a missed stumping by Parthiv. In a clear sign of intent following the second time-out at the end of the 13th over - the scoring rate was fractionally over six at that stage - Saha swept Ravindra Jadeja for six over square leg. In addition to aggressive running between the wickets and an adeptness in rotating the strike, Saha, picked for the Indian tour of West Indies, also indulged in some powerplay. He charged out to Muralitharan to loft him out of the ground and pulled RP into the stands behind deep midwicket to end the Chennai innings on a high.
Kochi needed a big win to keep themselves mathematically alive in this competition, but even the usually dominating Brendon McCullum was forced to exercise restraint against some determined bowling. R Ashwin kept one end locked up with his variations in turn, flight and pace, and sent back Parthiv in his second over. McCullum and Gnaneswara Rao picked up a couple of boundaries each but the innings appeared to stagnate soon after Rao's dismissal. McCullum and Brad Hodge could do little during their stand to get on par with the climbing required-rate. Chennai didn't concede a single boundary in the three overs that followed McCullum's exit at 85 in the 14th over.
Kochi did manage a belated surge with Jadeja and Hodge trying to salvage what they could out of an impending defeat, reducing the margin of the loss to 11 runs - incidentally, the difference in Parthiv's expected target at the toss.
Siddhartha Talya is a sub editor at ESPNcricinfo