Suman, bowlers keep Deccan alive
Deccan Chargers continued to climb up the points table by beating Chennai Super Kings comprehensively by six wickets at their "home" venue in Nagpur to draw level with Royal Challengers Bangalore, Kolkata Knight Riders and the losing side. The win was set up by their bowlers, after MS Dhoni decided to bat on a scorching afternoon, who restricted Chennai to 138, allowing the batsmen to chase at a comfortable pace despite two early jolts and the sapping heat. Deccan struggled against spin initially, losing three wickets to the slow stuff, but rode on another fifty from T Suman and Andrew Symonds' cool head to seal victory with five balls to spare.
The only bit that really went right for Chennai was the toss, which Dhoni won and had little hesitation in choosing to bat. When Chennai accelerated from 21 after three overs to 55 for 1 from six it seemed a run-fest was on the cards. As it turned out, Chennai had little to celebrate thereafter. In the eighth over, M Vijay called for a suicidal second run and that momentary brain freeze changed the complexion of Chennai's innings. It was another example of the schizophrenic series he's had, with aborted starts amid some match-winning knocks, and from there Deccan never let the initiative slip.
From 65 for 2 in eight overs, Chennai slowed down to reach the half-way stage at 74 for 2 with Symonds and Pragyan Ojha keeping a check with stump-to-stump bowling. Chennai's predicament had been brought about by their batsmen's urge to dominate and as wickets fell around him, Suresh Raina began to improvise cleverly. He moved to leg to clip the ball fine and walked down the pitch to upset the bowlers, but also reined in his attacking instincts, knocking the ball in the gaps during the middle overs.
Gilchrist put down a tough chance when Raina was 27 and he broke a 38-ball period without a boundary by stepping out and launching Ojha for a straight six and repeated the shot to Symonds in the following over. Raina struggled to keep a partner at the other end, as Michael Hussey pulled Symonds to deep midwicket and S Badrinath fell for 6.
When Raina fell for 52, Chennai only had 122 on the board with 16 deliveries to go and no recognised batsman to follow. Deccan never allowed matters to slip their grasp as Harmeet Singh stymied runs and Ryan Harris returned to pick up wickets in the last over. In a team which had more experienced names in their bowling line-up, the hero of the innings was Harmeet, who bowled with excellent control, changing his pace and offering the batsmen no width to score off. His dismissal of Matthew Hayden with his first ball, drawn into a drive, and final two frugal overs were a blow to Chennai's hopes of getting a challenging total on the board.
A target of 139 meant than Chennai had to strike early to have any chance of a successful defense. The very impressive R Ashwin's dismissal of the Deccan openers in the fifth over, with lovely traditional offspin, gave Chennai a sniff but Suman emphasised how crucial his presence at No. 3 was with a sensible innings. Against Bangalore two nights ago, Suman had batted aggressively because Deccan where chasing 185 but today he focused on staying at the crease.
He reined in the big shots and along with Symonds -after Rohit Sharma fell to another aerial shot outside off stump - he stablised the innings, allowing himself to gain confidence against spin. Suman chipped Shadab Jakati for four and swung Raina for six, Symonds launched Jakati down the ground for maximum to negate the pressure, and the equation came to 49 from 36 balls. Dhoni had to turn to Sudeep Tyagi for his first over, the 15th, and Suman greeted him with four and six to cross fifty, the striking point being the use of a straight bat and clean swing. He fell with 32 needed from 24, a task which Symonds made sure was accomplished without too many jitters.
Deccan's win means the match to follow tonight will break up the tie between Kolkata and Bangalore.
Jamie Alter is a senior sub-editor at Cricinfo