Super Kings batting might trumps Watson ton
Chennai Super Kings 186 for 5 (Hussey 88, Raina 51, Faulkner 3-20) beat Rajasthan Royals 185 for 4 (Watson 101, Binny 36*, Ashwin 2-20) by five wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Chennai Super Kings have more match-turning batsmen than any other side in the tournament, and that was on display yet again as they hunted down 186 against Rajasthan Royals. Michael Hussey, who made the slowest 40-plus score in the IPL in the previous match, showed off his versatility with a boundary-filled 88, the out-of-form Suresh Raina powered his way to a half-century, MS Dhoni narrowed the gap to the target though he couldn't close out the game this time. It was left to Dwayne Bravo to pound a final-over six and deliver victory, before breaking out into a joyous chukka chukka dance.
The endless depth in Super Kings' batting meant that Shane Watson's typically power-packed century, the first hundred of the season, and James Faulkner's pinpoint death bowling was not enough for the perennial underdogs Rajasthan Royals to pull off another upset.
Royals have won all 15 matches in which they have had to defend more than 162, but once the Super Kings chase began, Royals never looked outright favourites. Ajit Chandila continued to have success with his seemingly harmless and variation-less offspin bowling, dismissing M Vijay cheaply, but Hussey began with a barrage of boundaries, including a six over midwicket to ensure Super Kings kept pace. It was a shot he used often and effectively as he shed his usual role of anchor, and turned into an aggressor.
Raina was no slouch either, playing two of his trademark strokes - the slog over midwicket and the inside-out lofted hit over extra cover - as the pair, helped by some erratic bowling, powered Super Kings past 100 in the 10th over.
Faulkner gave Royals some hope by getting Raina lbw, but with Cooper bowling too many wide deliveries that were easily guided by Hussey to behind backward point for four, and the finishing expert, Dhoni, in the middle, Super Kings were still ahead.
A spot-on direct-hit from Dravid to send back Hussey renewed Royals' fight, before Faulkner bowled two superb death overs, getting rid of Ravindra Jadeja for a duck, and then dismissing Dhoni caught at wide long-on. It was down to Bravo to score 11 off the final over, off Watson who has only recently re-started bowling. Watson missed the length on one and was drilled over sweeper cover for six to virtually kill off the contest.
It was a bittersweet match for Watson, who had been in imperious touch earlier. The carnage started in earnest from the third over, as he coolly launched Mohit Sharma's first delivery over the bowler's head for six. Chris Morris was helped over deep backward square leg for six, the giant West Indian fast bowler Jason Holder proved ineffective on debut and by the end of the seventh, Royals had whooshed to 71.
The over which defined the innings was the 17th, bowled by Jadeja. The first ball was a hit-me full toss that was clobbered over long-on for six. Jadeja, already taken for 27 in his first two overs, was flustered by the big hitting, and sprayed the next ball miles outside off stump. It was followed up by another full toss that was deposited for six, and another shocking wide, several metres outside off.
Watson ended that over on 99, and brought up the first hundred of the season with a gentle nudge behind square leg in the next over. With Stuart Binny regularly scything the ball over the off side, Royals ran up what seemed a terrific total of 185. Not against Super Kings.
Siddarth Ravindran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo