Chennai Super Kings went on top of the table after an efficient performance from the bowlers - reckoned to be the team's weak link - set up a convincing nine-wicket victory over the Kolkata Knight Riders. After Kolkata were restricted to 147, Matthew Hayden's superb unbeaten 70 ensured there were no hiccups in making it three wins out of three.
Jacob Oram and Muttiah Muralitharan were the stand-out bowlers for Chennai, but the Indian bowling contingent backed them up well. Oram nailed the explosive pair of Bendon McCullum and Ricky Ponting early to give the huge home crowd something to shout about. Muralitharan's restrictive spell - he finished with figures of none for 12 from four overs - then frustrated the visitors and ensured Oram's good work wasn't wasted.
Kolkata were reeling at 70 for 5 after ten overs, with all their marquee names dismissed, and in danger of getting bowled out without utilising their full quota of overs. Laxmi Ratan Shukla, though, ensured they avoided that embarrassment as his late-order hitting earned 39 runs off the last four overs.
The early impetus for Kolkata was provided by Brendon McCullum, who silenced the crowd with some brutal hitting. There were no half-measures as he raced to 24 off 12, reclaiming the orange cap for the tournament's leading scorer in the process, before holing out to Suresh Raina at extra cover off Oram. Ricky Ponting's dismal run continued, falling for a duck as he drove his first ball straight to Raina at cover.
Kolkata's other wicketkeeper-batsman Wriddhiman Saha took the baton from McCullum, making a streaky, quickfire 27 - a top-edge off Manpreet Gony flew over the wicketkeeper for four and a similar shot off the next ball went for six. His luck then ran out and he was bowled by a ball that jagged back in.
Despite losing wickets, Kolkata's run-rate still hovered around ten after six overs, and with David Hussey and Sourav Ganguly in, a big score was still on the cards. The next four overs, though, emphatically handed the advantage to Chennai, as only 11 runs were given away and both Hussey and Ganguly were removed.
Ganguly, who had been starved of the strike when McCullum and Saha were blazing away, was cramped for room by Muttiah Muralitharan's leg-stump line and struggled to get the ball away. He finally fell for a scratchy 12, in the 10th over, gifting a catch to S Badrinath at cover after failing to pick a slower one from Joginder Sharma.
For a team which has run up scores over 200 in both their games so far, this was a straightforward chase. Hayden and Parthiv Patel, while not at their fluent best, put on the biggest opening stand of the tournament as they motored to 66 in 8.2 overs, peppering the offside boundary. While this was nearly the same number of runs Kolkata had managed at a similar stage, by keeping their wickets in tact, Chennai made sure they were well in control of the game.
Ajit Agarkar then demonstrated his penchant for taking wickets again, getting Patel to top-edge a catch to Ishant Sharma at fine leg. Hayden had struggled early on with his timing but soon displayed his trademark power-hitting, going on to his second consecutive fifty. He and Dhoni, who promoted himself to No. 3, eschewed the risks and calmly chipped away at the target, never allowing the run-rate to get out of hand. Towards the end, with the result beyond doubt, they opened up to take Chennai home with 19 balls to spare.