Super Kings v Royal Challengers, Qualifier 2, IPL 2015, Ranchi May 22, 2015

Super Kings tie up Royal Challengers

The Qualifier 2, between Chennai Super Kings and Royal Challengers, was, to use the old wrestling parlance, a hold for hold bout, with the teams mirroring each other on various counts. ESPNcricinfo takes a look at the five takeaways from the game.

Chris Gayle made 41 but took 43 balls © BCCI

Top-order ballast
Both Chris Gayle and Michael Hussey realised early on it wasn't a wicket where they could stun the senses out of the bowling attack. The slowness of the surface as well as the fall of wickets in quick succession meant they had to sign up for the hard graft. Hussey acknowledged later that it was a wicket on which it was difficult for new batsmen to take the bowlers on, so he had to bat deep into the innings. All this meant running a high number of singles and twos, something especially hard for Gayle. But, it was their sturdiness at the top and match awareness that set up things for the hitters at the back end.

Who blinks first?
This was a delicious battle between a batsman willing to wait and a captain who wanted to push the limits of such patience. MS Dhoni wanted to get Gayle out, and if that wasn't possible, tie him up. He was, in any case, having his way at the other end, getting wickets in clusters. But he wanted to get rid of Gayle to complete the destruction.

R Ashwin was deployed primarily for this purpose. Dhoni, in fact, bowled him out inside the first eight overs in the push for Gayle's wicket. Ashwin had dismissed him four times in eight innings. Gayle, though, was content with scoring a mere six runs off the 12 balls he faced him. He had his eyes set on the two left-arm spinners - Pawan Negi and Ravindra Jadeja - in the Super Kings line-up. Dhoni was adamant about not exposing a left-armer as long as Gayle was batting. He turned to Suresh Raina instead. Gayle didn't budge. Dinesh Karthik, meanwhile, tried to upset Dhoni's plans by striking two fours against Raina. Dhoni, however, persisted with the off-spinner in the 14th over.

Gayle had had enough by then. He slammed the first ball over midwicket for a six and went straighter the following delivery for an identical result. Raina bowled a wide the next ball. He then pushed one quicker and shorter. Gayle's attempted pull ballooned in the air, and Raina, backpedalling, completed a fine catch.

The spin doctors
The very nature of the wicket suggested that spinners had a big part to play, but as Daniel Vettori, the Royal Challengers head coach, said after the match, only Ashwin and Yuzvendra Chahal stood out. They operated at different stages of the match - Ashwin in the Powerplay and Chahal in the middle overs - and influenced the game in different ways.

Ashwin bowled a prickly middle-and-off line to Gayle and spun it sharply away from him. While he couldn't remove Gayle, he had something to show for it in the wickets column after he forced Mandeep Singh into sweeping only for him to top-edge it. Chahal's brief, on the other hand, was perform the twin functions of run-drying and breaking partnerships: a role he has played rather successfully in this year's competition. He was responsible for making what was until then a fairly smooth chase complicated for Super Kings, as he sent back Faf du Plessis and Raina in the same over. Du Plessis exposed his stumps, and let the ball hit them, attempting a cute paddle.

Raina, looking to disorient Chahal, picked his spot fairly well, a short straight boundary at the northern end. But Chahal was brave enough to tease him with a well-flighted googly, and was rewarded for the courage. With the exception of his last over, where Hussey took two sixes off him, Chahal was typically niggardly.

Young guns blaze away
When Sarfaraz Khan walked in at the fall of Gayle's wicket in the 14th over, Royal Challengers were still struggling to score at six runs an over. It was his spunky counter-assault that sparked life into a meandering innings. He began by hitting Jadeja for consecutive boundaries: first, he went inside-out over covers and then sprang out of the crease to belt one over his head. With David Wiese giving him company, Sarfaraz's hitting fetched Royal Challengers 34 runs from overs 15 to 18. He had scored 31 off 21 balls when he was out of the penultimate ball of the innings.

Later, Negi would go on to play a significant hand, even if he didn't score as many runs as Sarfaraz. Coming in with 32 needed off 21 balls, Negi aided his captain with some swift running between the wickets, and then took Harshal Patel apart to bring down the margin to 13 off 12.

The failed push
It's fair to say that Royal Challengers underachieved immensely in their first 10 overs, scoring only 46: a phase that probably cost them the game. However, they had considerably upped their scoring in the middle phase, piling on 57 runs in the five overs after the 13th. But they failed to make one final push, eking out a mere 15 runs in the last two overs. Some of the credit ought to go to Super Kings' seamers Dwayne Bravo and Mohit Sharma, who lopped pace off their deliveries and traded in cutters, mostly outside the off stump. A score of 145 and upwards could have had the Super Kings panting.

Arun Venugopal is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo