Chennai outgun Rajasthan in run-fest
This was more Cricinfo Slogout - or whatever your preference for keyboard-fuelled cricket is - at its best as Chennai Super Kings, led by M Vijay, pulverized the Rajasthan Royals bowling and set up a 23-run win. Having been given first use of a belter of track by his captain, an in-form Vijay drubbed a dazed attack into submission with an outstanding century of powerful and clean hitting that carried Chennai to a record total. From 91 for 2 after ten overs, Chennai ransacked 155 in the final ten, and 76 in the last five, with Vijay and Albie Morkel setting a record for the tournament's highest partnership.
After 20 overs that resembled the mid-point of the French Revolution, Rajasthan had their task cut-out. Their reply was a hard-hitting one led by Naman Ojha and Shane Watson, but though they titled at the windmill for a while, Doug Bollinger's fine debut - 2 for 15 from four overs - made sure Chennai held on for a victory that kept alive their hopes of a place in the semi-finals.
There's a special kick that comes from finding a new sensation. So step up, Vijay, and take your bows. On a scorching Saturday afternoon, Chennai bolted out of the stables. The tone was set when they reached 66 for 1 after six overs, with Vijay flexing his muscles to reach 28 off 14 balls. Suresh Raina was cut off by Warne for the second time this season, but that proved to be the best thing to happen to Chennai. Morkel teed off with a trademark slogged six off Abhishek Jhunjhunwala, and when Warne began with a terrible long hop the result was six more. Vijay also launched Warne for six to raise a fifty.
After that costly over Chennai's run rate was near ten. It went past that mark the first ball of the next over, as Vijay late cut Yusuf Pathan for four and charged him for six, and then nearly touched 11 when Morkel slogged four and six off successive deliveries. Off went Yusuf to nurse figures of 0 for 44 from four overs. Two more incredible shots flowed in the next over, bowled by Shaun Tait. Morkel's unleashed a perfect drive past cover, Vijay made room and used the pace on the ball to steer a six over third man. By this time the fans were high on some awesome batting, and a pulled six out of the ground sent the spectators at deep midwicket into delirium. After 15 overs, Chennai were 170 for 2.
Upon the conclusion of the 16th over, they were 196 for 2. Vijay's seventh six came promptly on resumption after the time-out, with Sumit Narwal starting off by bowling length. Morkel didn't want to be left out and drove a straight six to raise the century stand in 43 balls, but was left marvelling at his partner's strokeplay when two more sixes flew off Vijay's bat in a 26-run over. Narwal went for 41 in two overs and it was left to Warne, Watson and Tait to try rein in the rampant batsmen.
Rajasthan had a chance to run out Vijay but Warne failed to collect cleanly. Two runs from four balls seemed like damage control, but Morkel rounded off by taking ten off the last two deliveries. A hammered straight-drive down the ground for four got Vijay to three figures from just 46 balls, and he celebrated with more devastating hitting down the ground as Rajasthan's bowling imploded. Even the wickets of Morkel, Vijay and MS Dhoni in the final over couldn't give Rajasthan much lift. Vijay was responsible for 52% of his team's runs, and his incredible 152-run alliance with Morkel left them battered.
After losing the toss Warne, beads of sweat dripping down his face, said he didn't have too many issues with Rajasthan having to chase. This clearly wasn't what he had in mind, even if Rajasthan's openers took 62 off the Powerplays without trying anything silly and Ojha and Watson gave it their all. Morkel's first two overs cost 29 as Michael Lumb and Ojha took three fours a piece, but a tidy start from Muttiah Muralitharan forced Lumb to continue attacking Morkel and that led to his dismissal for 37. The cheers across the ground reached a crescendo four balls later when Bollinger did a David Hussey and plucked a surreal catch to dismiss Yusuf. It was another example of how seriously boundary-catching is taken, as Bollinger parried that ball over the ropes, threw it back into play, and then hopped across to pouch it. And to think yesterday Kings XI Punjab's fielders couldn't catch dollies inside the circle.
Bollinger was into the thick of things later when he was handed the ball after a tidy two-over spell early. Watson had targeted the midwicket boundary ruthlessly during his 25-ball 60, hitting Murali for three sixes in the 15th over, but a missed swipe against Bollinger left his stumps rattled. Watson and Ojha, who played excellently after keeping wickets in the sweltering heat, had looted 97 in 43 deliveries with some audacious shot-making but with the dangerman gone, Rajasthan's chase fizzled despite Ojha battling on to an unbeaten 94. In a match where 469 runs were made in 40 overs, Bollinger allowed just 15 runs from four overs.
Jamie Alter is a senior sub-editor at Cricinfo