Dhoni scripts narrow Chennai win
The Chennai Super Kings overcame two adverse situations, the first with the bat and then with the ball, to extend their unbeaten streak in the IPL to four matches, defeating the Bangalore Royal Challengers by 13 runs at the Chinnaswamy Stadium.
Chennai were struggling for momentum during their innings, having scored only 102 for 3 off 15 overs before Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who struck a blistering 65, and Michael Hussey clouted 76 off the last five overs. Their bowlers were under pressure as Bangalore, chasing 179, cruised to 102 for 2 in 11 overs but Chennai's medium-pace attack persevered and the hosts' middle order panicked towards the business-end of the chase. Bangalore were dismissed for 165, falling to their third straight defeat at home.
Bangalore were coasting towards the target while Wasim Jaffer, who was dropped thrice during his 50, and Ross Taylor put on 89 for the second wicket. Palani Amarnath provided the breakthrough when Jaffer holed out to long-off immediately after reaching his half-century but Bangalore were still comfortably placed with Jacques Kallis and Taylor batting fluently.
The turning point came when both Kallis and Taylor fell in the space of six balls: Kallis nicked Joginder Sharma to Dhoni and Taylor struck a fierce drive straight at Suresh Rania at point. Bangalore slipped from needing 52 runs off 36 balls with eight wickets in hand to 47 runs off 29 balls with six wickets left. Their hopes lay with Mark Boucher, who despite being dropped on 4, skied a catch the very next ball to Hussey at third man off Manpreet Gony.
Dravid, who had demoted himself below Virat Kohli, the India Under-19 captain, fell for his second consecutive golden duck as he was struck on the pad by Gony while moving across to flick. It was perhaps a bit too high but one could sense Dravid's lack of confidence. The final blow came when Albie Morkel uprooted Kohli's leg stump for 12. Bangalore were left with 30 runs to get off 16 balls with only the tailenders left. The task proved to be too much and Dravid once again was left to ponder over what could have been.
Chennai pulled off this victory from an improbable position but they had their captain to thank for setting a competitive total. They were in desperate need of acceleration and found it hard initially, with Dhoni scoring at a run a ball and Hussey striking only one boundary in his first 24 deliveries. With five overs to go the pair turned it on: Hussey struck B Akhil for consecutive sixes to take 14 runs off the 16th over and then he scored two boundaries off Kallis after which Dhoni launched the ball over long-off to take 16 runs off the 17th.
Dale Steyn had bowled three fast and economical overs but his fourth was a disaster. Dhoni clubbed two fours down the ground, edged one to the third-man boundary, and powerfully hit a four and a six towards midwicket. He took 24 off the over and then drove and pulled Zaheer Khan for 14 off the first four balls of the final over before holing out to deep cover. Chennai scored 76 runs off the last five.
Both teams eventually missed a specialist spinner in their line-ups. The pitch had pace and bounce, prompting Bangalore to bench Anil Kumble and Sunil Joshi and Chennai to replace Muttiah Muralitharan with Morkel. The inclusion of Steyn, who had just arrived after playing in the Standard Bank Pro20 Series in South Africa, was a fillip to the Bangalore attack and his mid-140kph pace made a world of difference at the start.
Steyn's pace and length forced Matthew Hayden to abandon his intimidating walk down the wicket and play him with caution. With Steyn proving difficult to get away, Hayden was forced to go after Zaheer: he tried to make room and smash him down the ground. The first attempt resulted in an inside-edge that ran past the stumps for four, the second inside-edge the very next ball crashed into the stumps.
Parthiv struggled against the shorter balls, his attempt to hook Praveen Kumar's marginally slower pace resulted in a top-edged six. However, he steered the very next ball to Jacques Kallis at first slip. Suresh Raina began to increase Chennai's run-rate by pulling B Akhil and Praveen powerfully over midwicket for sixes but a mix-up with Hussey cut short his innings on 28 off 17 balls.
Although Hussey began to provide the initial acceleration during the last five overs, he was quickly overshadowed by Dhoni who mesmerised the appreciative Chinnaswamy crowd with tremendous power and improvisation. His 65 off 30 balls grabbed the initiative away from Bangalore and resulted in Chennai posting a match-winning total.
George Binoy is a staff writer at Cricinfo