Badrinath, bowlers seal emphatic win for Chennai
Chennai 151 for 4 (Badrinath 52*, Anirudha 42, Bracewell 2-28) beat Central Districts 94 (Bracewell 30, Balaji 3-20, Bollinger 2-10, Muralitharan 2-15, Ashwin 2-28) by 57 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
S Badrinath led a strong counterattack after early losses to guide Chennai to 151, a score that their varied bowling attack defended easily under lights to launch their side's Champions League Twenty20 campaign with a win. Chennai's batsmen recovered from 48 for 3 at the halfway mark of their innings, looting 103 runs off their last 10 overs, nine more than Central Districts managed in their entire chase. Chennai's bowlers maintained control from start to finish, in the process taking a small step towards questioning the theory that IPL teams would struggle in this event.
The game was always going to be decided by how well Central Districts' batsmen would stand up to Chennai's world-class bowling arsenal. And the answers came soon enough: R Ashwin and Suresh Raina dropped chances early in the piece, but even that failed to level the playing field. Doug Bolliner hustled away with a heady mix of pace, bounce and movement. Albie Morkel began the procession, coaxing Peter Ingram into an impulsive pull that went nowhere. Lakshmipathy Balaji then settled into an impressive spell, bowling legcutters at will to outclass the top order, and produced the first maiden of the tournament. Then the spinners came on, and Central Districts' misery was complete.
Ashwin, denied the new-ball role that he relished in IPL 2010, foxed Jamie How with a carom ball that sped past his tentative prod. Muttiah Muralitharan, sporting the 800-number jersey, then sent back Mathew Sinclair and Kieran Noema-Barnett in his opening over. Five down for 36 in the eighth over and no escape routes in sight. Chennai made good use of the remainder of the game, correcting the early blips on the field, led by Matthew Hayden who plucked a couple of screamers in the slips.
The margin and manner of defeat were both long shots given the way Central Districts' seamers started. MS Dhoni's decision to bat on a fresh pitch was tested immediately by sharp movement and spongy bounce. M Vijay poked nervously at the first ball of the innings, edged the second short of slip and sparred uncertainly at the third, all outside the off stump. Matthew Hayden did not learn from Vijay's travails and top-edged a pull off the last ball of the over to continue his miserable run from the IPL.
Suresh Raina succumbed to a vicious bouncer from Adam Milne that he could not evade in time. The pressure was on Chennai and Vijay was clueless against the swing, and more obviously, the bounce. He kept committing to shots early, edging into vacant areas, before Doug Bracewell removed him with a brute that took the shoulder of his bat on its way to the slips.
In conditions that were not cut out for flashy strokeplay, Badrinath, arguably Chennai's most correct local batsman, took control. Brendon Diamanti grassed him at point in the fifth over, but otherwise his innings was chanceless. Srikkanth Anirudha, who got a promotion ahead of Dhoni, was reprieved early as well, Michael Mason dropping a regulation offering at deep midwicket. Soon, Central Districts were left ruing their two blemishes in an otherwise impressive fielding effort.
Badrinath's plan initially was to pick singles and settle in. With the wicket losing its early spice, he opened up in the tenth over, drilling Mitchell McClenaghan off the backfoot for four. Unlike his colleagues who struggled to handle the bounce, Badrinath repeatedly used it to his advantage, cutting and pulling bumpers for sixes.
Anirudha, at the other end, hit the ground running, and soon Central Districts were leaking runs at both ends. He hung deep in the crease, converting full-length balls into half-volleys and gaining extra time to handle short balls. The result was a flurry of boundaries through the off side, the best being an inside-out carve for six, off Mason in the 15th over.
Anirudha departed after a stand of 73 in 8.1 overs, but despite Dhoni's continued absence at the crease on account of a flu, Morkel ensured a strong finish. Badrinath did not get much strike in the end overs, but he had already played his part. An upper-cut for four, off Milne in the final over, took him past fifty and Chennai had completed a strong recovery. At that stage it seemed like Chennai's bowlers had been given something to work with. Around a hour-and-a-half later later, their ruthlessness on the field made even that score look superfluous.
Nitin Sundar is a sub-editor at Cricinfo