Deccan big guns overwhelm Chennai
Each apparently content in their post-international careers, Adam Gilchrist, Andrew Symonds and Chaminda Vaas still have the ability and sheer presence to turn a team's mood upside down in one evening, proving that the IPL is as much about cool heads and years of experience as it is about youthful exuberance. Gilchrist began by winning the toss and larruping 38 from 17 balls, becoming the first batsman in the IPL to reach 1000 runs, Symonds overcame a sluggish start to slam the game's only half-century, and Vaas snuffed out Chennai Super Kings' chase with three wickets in his opening burst. The result was that the defending champions Deccan Chargers smoothed over their opening-day loss to Kolkata Knight Riders with a professional win.
This win was set up by Deccan's batsmen, namely their three big overseas imports. A frenetic burst at the start, powered by Gilchrist, was followed by a sedate period when Deccan were tied down by Chennai's assortment of spinners and medium-pacers, but the decisive spell that followed went the visitors' way. Herschelle Gibbs' innings was nowhere near as manic as his captain's but it proved far more valuable, because he saw out a tough period on a surface with variable bounce and then accelerated at the end.
Symonds proved a good ally, initially playing second fiddle to Gibbs - at one stage he was 3 off 17 balls and then soared to 50. Gibbs and Symonds fell in succession, after getting Deccan past 150, and a 22-run final over, bowled by two men due to Sudeep Tyagi's full-toss barrage, left Chennai needing 191 to win. Chennai conceded 63 in the last five overs and that proved to be the decisive period of the match.
Gilchrist, who at the toss said matter-of-factly that he wasn't too concerned at his team's first loss, set the tone by smashing Sudeep Tyagi's first over for 18 runs. Albie Morkel was also tonked for fun runs and after three overs the score was 41 for 0. A double-wicket over from R Ashwin, called on to bowl the fifth over, changed the mood in the stadium and forced Deccan to consolidate. Ashwin was taken off after that big over and from 55 for 2 Deccan added just 12 runs in the next four overs.
Upon resumption after the strategic time-out, Gibbs created a few risk-free shots to keep the runs flowing. Justin Kemp, on his IPL debut, was taken for two calculated fours, wrists rolled on both occasions, and Muttiah Muralitharan was reverse-paddled to third man. Murali didn't offer the batsmen any room and that meant they had to try different scoring options to make runs. Symonds had been especially bogged down after failing to score off Murali, Ashwin and Kemp, who in 16 balls allowed him just three singles, but in L Balaji's second over he carved a six and four off consecutive deliveries to move to 14 from 20 balls.
A 95-run stand off 75 balls was ended when Morkel fielded and hit the stumps off his own bowling to send back Gibbs at the start of the 18th over, and five balls later Symonds was caught a frame short of his crease for 50 off 43 balls. Chennai had a good chance to keep Deccan down, but Tyagi's horror evening culminated with Rohit Sharma and T Suman flogging three fours and a six before a second beamer ruled him out after five deliveries. Kemp bowled the final ball and allowed just one, but Deccan went into the interval all charged up.
That drive was clearly channeled into their effort in the field. Before this tournament few outside the Deccan camp would have backed Vaas to feature heavily for the defending champions, given that he had played just seven games in the past two seasons for indifferent returns. But for the second game running, he jolted the opposition top order with a double-wicket over, and by the time he took his third wicket, that of the bulwark Matthew Hayden, Chennai were hemorrhaging at 31 for 3. It was simple stuff; pitch straight, get some cut, let the batsmen cope with the rest. As he had in Mumbai, Vaas even snuck in a maiden over. It was top stuff.
Vaas began his second over by cleaning up M Vijay with an inside edge, had Suresh Raina pull him for six, but when he pitched fuller Raina was lured into a fatal prod to Gilchrist. Much was made of Hayden's expected use of the Mongoose bat, but he came out with a normal piece of willow and fell for just 17, paddling Vaas to RP Singh at short fine leg. Pragyan Ojha struck with his third ball to get S Badrinath miscuing an attempted inside-out drive to long-off and at the end of the Powerplay, Chennai were 37 for 4.
Even a 16-run Jaskaran Singh over, during which Dhoni and Kemp plundered boundaries, didn't deter Deccan. Symonds came on to bowl some seam-up stuff and cleaned up Dhoni (42 from 29), and in the next over Rohit struck to leave Chennai at 115 for 7. Symonds capped a good evening with a second wicket and Chennai finished on 159, a total that owed much to Morkel's belligerent 42.
Jamie Alter is a senior sub-editor at Cricinfo