Watson, Rahane hand CSK a thrashing
Rajasthan Royals 157 for 2 (Rahane 76*, Watson 73) beat Chennai Super Kings 156 for 4 (Bravo 62*, Smith 40) by eight wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Shane Watson and Ajinkya Rahane made light work of Chennai Super Kings' 156 for 4, each hitting sparkling seventies in a breezy 144-run stand. The eight-wicket victory also embedded Rajasthan Royals at the top of the table. They have five wins out of five this season, and have now comfortably beaten the only other team that had been undefeated until today.
This despite Watson having lost the toss on a sweltering Ahmedabad afternoon. Having assumed the captaincy in his first match this season, his bowlers delivered him four wickets and an excellent economy rate in the first 10 overs. Dwayne Bravo slammed a 36-ball 62 to help the visitors recover, but even though he and MS Dhoni could not be parted, Dhoni's stuttering 37-ball 31 weighed down the partnership. Their eventual score seemed at least 15 runs too short.
Watson was brutish and bullying at the top of Royals' chase, and Rahane light and flowing. Rahane's first boundaries were gorgeous drives down the ground, and right through his unbeaten 76 off 55, he never seemed to over-hit a ball. The languid six over midwicket off Mohit Sharma was a particular highlight. He was rarely troubled by the Super Kings bowling all evening, and found singles and twos into the outfield with ease.
His opening partner was less pretty, but no less effective. Watson repeatedly backed away towards leg to blast balls through the offside, and when the spinners came on, used that powerful slog sweep with abandon. He reached fifty off 34 balls by clobbering Bravo over long on, then hit two more fours. He was bowled with 13 runs to get, but effectively, the match was already won.
In his first five overs as captain in this IPL season, Watson was like a man clicking through his revolver in search of the loaded chambers. He opened the bowling with the left-arm spin of Ankit Sharma, switched to the seam of Chris Morris next, brought in Pravin Tambe the following over, then went to Deepak Hooda and James Faulkner for the fourth and fifth overs respectively. Only the wicket of Brendon McCullum fell in those five varied overs, but in them, Royals had set the tone.
Morris had Suresh Raina caught behind with an angled delivery that bounced higher than the batsman expected in the sixth over, and by the end of the Powerplay, Super Kings had been kept to 39 for 2.
The wickets kept falling, partly because Super Kings were attempting to lift the pace of the innings. Ankit had Faf du Plessis caught nicely by Morris at the long off fence for one. A few overs later, James Faulkner pegged back the middle stump of Dwayne Smith, as the batsman attempted to swing across the line.
When Bravo and Dhoni were joined at 65 for 4 in the 10th over, the pair were forced to rein in their aggression for several overs, while the innings was girded up again. Bravo cracked two successive square boundaries - one on either side of the wicket - off Watson in the 12th over, but both batsmen were more reserved against spin to begin with. The pitch didn't offer substantial turn off the straight, but Tambe was typically miserly in his first three overs. Morris and Faulkner bowled tightly throughout the innings as well.
Though Bravo began to launch the late-overs assault around the 16th over, Dhoni remained oddly inert. His timing had visibly been poor early in his innings, but even in the death overs, where he ordinarily comes into his own, he continued to mishit balls, collecting singles when he wanted sixes. Bravo smoked two fours and a six over cow corner off Tambe's 18th over to draw near his fifty, which he completed in 29 balls. But with Dhoni so out of touch, Super Kings could only trot in those final overs. As they did not lose a wicket, their lower-order hitters went unused.
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando