Chennai sneak a last-ball thriller
Partisan fans at the Feroz Shah Kotla were treated to a cracker of a match as the Chennai Super Kings pulled off a dramatic last-ball win, sneaking past Delhi Daredevils' total of 187 for 5 by four wickets. Chennai's chase veered from the authoritative to the bumbling but they kept their nerves and put an end to their three-game losing streak, thanks largely to some fearless hitting right through the order.
Chennai recovered somewhat to restrict the hosts to under 200 after Gautam Gambhir and Shikhar Dhawan added a record third-wicket partnership of 121 and that, in hindsight, proved critical before a thrilling chase helped them get back to their winning ways.
Chennai were given a 62-run start inside seven overs with S Vidyut, promoted to open in place of Parthiv Patel, batting purposefully. Both Glenn McGrath and Mohammad Asif were unusually off-key in their first overs and Vidyut handled the short and full deliveries admirably, stepping out to meet the ball. Asif's first over went for 15, with Vidyut taking two fours and Stephen Fleming playing a gorgeous cover drive, and the sixth over, bowled by Yo Mahesh, cost 20 with both openers clubbing the width.
Vidyut fell for 40 from 23 balls, attempting another pull but Fleming, finding rhythm after three poor innings, kept the momentum with Chennai. Initially a watchful spectator with Vidyut cashing in on some short-pitched stuff, he played some eye-catching square-drives and cuts. Shoaib Malik bowled a poor line and Fleming kept McGrath busy at square leg with powerful sweeps.
With Mahendra Singh Dhoni keeping the ball along the grass, Fleming went for his shots except that a flat hard drive found AB de Villiers at cover. Suresh Raina steered a simple catch to backward point four balls later and Chennai failed to score a boundary for 16 deliveries. Albie Morkel made up with 25 off a Virender Sehwag over, swung into motion by three consecutive sixes, but the bowler had his revenge of sorts with a direct hit from mid-on sent Morkel running on his way to the pavilion.
Dhoni threatened to seal the deal with a sensible hand but Yo Mahesh returned to snap up two wickets in the 19th over - one down to a stunning catch from de Villiers, running in from long-on - and that left Chennai with 15 to get off six balls. Sehwag gave the task to Malik and it proved a disaster. Manpreet Gony slogged the first ball over midwicket for six, a wide followed, easing the pressure further, and a thick edge past the wicketkeeper sent the crowd into silence. A single to mid-on set the stage for S Badrinath, who tied the scores with a chip over the covers for two, and won it with another over mid-on.
The afternoon began with two of Delhi's most reliable top-order batsmen welcoming Dhoni's decision to field first - for the first time in the tournament - with a record 121-run stand in 12.4 overs after early trouble. Sehwag flickered with whips off the pads and a ramrod-straight drive before a crushing yorker from Gony breached his defence. Morkel, sharing the new ball in Makhaya Ntini's absence, produced a pearl to clean up de Villiers first ball to make it 46 for 2 in the sixth over.
Gambhir bottom-edged Muttiah Muralitharan's first delivery narrowly past off stump and between Dhoni's legs for four and was offered a freaky slice of luck a couple balls later when Murali's flick back onto the stumps dislodged the bails a fraction too late. Loosening his shoulders after that last reprieve, Gambhir nudged to fine leg, flicked over midwicket, and flat-batted through the covers.
A massive six over mid-on raised Gambhir's fourth IPL half-century from 35 balls and earned him back the orange cap from Sehwag, and he proceeded to drill three consecutive fours in the 15th over to jack the run rate up near nine. He fell trying to steer one past backward point, for a 49-ball 80, and Dhawan fell shortly afterwards for a 46-ball 59 in the penultimate over. Delhi's decision to bring in Manoj Tiwary over Rajat Bhatia cost them a fifth bowler, and that hurt them plenty.
Jamie Alter is a staff writer at Cricinfo