Dhoni masterminds facile win for Chennai
MS Dhoni and S Badrinath added an unbroken 109-run stand from 65 deliveries to push Chennai Super Kings to a competitive total before their bowlers turned in an inspired performance to bowl them to a surprisingly facile win at the Eden Gardens. It was Chennai who had ended Kolkata's winning streak after the first two games in 2008 and history played out yet again.
Chennai were wobbling at 55 for 3 in the 10th over when Dhoni joined Badrinath to slowly change things around on a track with slightly variable bounce. It wasn't the traditional hit-everything-in-sight Twenty20 innings from them as they first strived to settle in with dabs and nudges before freeing their arms at the end.
It was off the final delivery of the 15th over that Dhoni managed his first big hit - a six over long-on. And it wasn't till the 18th over that he really went berserk, hitting Laxmi Ratan Shukla for two fours and another six over long-on as he started to work his bottom hand over time.
In the next over, bowled by Shane Bond, he looted three boundaries that included a scorching flatly-pulled six. Badrinath too got in the act, pulling Ishant Sharma for a six in the final over.
Until the final assault from the Chennai duo, nearly everything went according to Plan A for Kolkata. Bond got to swing it at pace, Ishant probed with his seam movement, Murali Kartik was at his canny best, Angelo Matthews was at his nagging self and Shukla kept it really tight as well. But Dhoni's knock proved the difference between a below-par total and a defendable one.
Kolkata needed a similar partnership but with wickets falling at regular intervals, the chase lacked any momentum and fizzled out very quickly. Within nine deliveries, their heroes from last game, Brad Hodge and Manoj Tiwary, were dismissed - Hodge pulled Albie Morkel to square-leg and Tiwary was bowled, going for an expansive on-the-up drive against Manpreet Gony. And when L Balaji produced the delivery of the game - it kicked up from short of length even as it straightened outside off stump - to catch the edge of Owais Shah, Kolkata were struggling at 46 for 4.
It required someone to seize the game but there weren't any inspired bursts lower down. Sourav Ganguly dawdled along for a while, unable to break free against a relentless attack of short deliveries into his rib cage, and he fell, swinging Justin Kemp to deep mid-wicket. Much depended on Matthews if Kolkata were to effect a jail break, but he was trapped in front trying to paddle sweep a straight delivery from Kemp. The tail couldn't produce any miracle and Chennai wrapped up the win with five balls to spare.
Sriram Veera is a staff writer at Cricinfo