The Chennai Super Kings have plenty to ponder after losing to the Deccan Chargers by seven wickets, their third successive defeat. Their top order failed again and their total of 144 was easily overhauled by Deccan, inspired by a blazing 54 by stand-in captain Adam Gilchrist. Besides struggling to come to terms with the loss of their big-hitting overseas batsmen, Chennai's bowling, which has taken only seven wickets in the last three matches, is also a cause for concern.
Deccan's bowlers exploited the helpful conditions early on to slice through the Chennai top order. Just as in the previous two matches, the batsmen floundered against the moving ball in the first over. Parthiv Patel troubles with the bat continued as he survived a close lbw call first ball, was dropped by the bowler P Vijaykumar off the fourth, before RP Singh took a fine running catch to dismiss him sixth ball. S Anirudh, son of former India batsman Kris Srikkanth, fell soon after, miscueing a pull off RP.
Stephen Fleming was just about getting into his groove when his rasping square drive off his former New Zealand team-mate Scott Styris was smartly held by Rohit Sharma at cover point. And when S Badrinath was spectacularly held at backward point by Herschelle Gibbs in the seventh over, Chennai were in shambles at 43 for 4.
Suresh Raina, who was playing fluently when the wickets were tumbling around him, and Mahendra Singh Dhoni, were again called on rebuild the innings. There was some tidy, but not threatening bowling from Sanjay Bangar and left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha as Chennai progressed to 82 without any hiccups. Raina unleashed some lovely straight drives while Dhoni sensibly cut out the risks and kept the ball on the ground.
However, both Raina and Dhoni were dismissed in the space of nine balls and Chennai were in danger of being bowled out for the second game in succession. Raina once again failed to capitalise on his start, spooning a wide full toss from Bangar to cover. Dhoni had been tied down by Ojha and perished when an attempted pull took a bottom edge and ballooned off his pads to Shahid Afridi at point.
As in his previous two knocks, Albie Morkel needed to haul his team out of the hole created by top order. The crowd had been chanting for a six and there had been none till the 17th over, when a monstrous hit from Morkel sent the ball out of the stadium. Four more sixes came off the last four overs, including two in the final one by Manpreet Gony, as Chennai pushed their score to 145.
After a quiet start to the chase, Gibbs showed glimpses of his striking abilities, lashing Makhaya Ntini for a six over cover and a four to midwicket, before being caught-and-bowled by the impressive Gony. Gilchrist, leading the side after VVS Laxman suffered a hand injury, had also been tied down by Gony but got going with a couple of pulled boundaries off Albie Morkel in the fourth over. He then tore into Ntini: the first ball was sent into the stands over his favourite midwicket area, the second was a lofted straight drive which ran away for four and the third was smashed back over the bowler's head for six. Twenty runs came in that over and Deccan had raced to 50 for 1 by the end of the sixth.
With Styris, promoted to No. 3, playing a steady hand at the other end, Gilchrist kept the barrage of boundaries coming before he cut a short and wide delivery from Morkel straight to Badrinath at point. By then, the required-rate had come down to around six - leisurely by Twenty20 standards.
Rohit struggled initially against Muttiah Muralitharan but slammed a 17-ball 23, including a stunning straight six to reclaim the orange cap for being the tournament's highest cumulative run-scorer. Styris remained unbeaten on 36 as Afridi smashed Joginder Sharma for two sixes and two fours in an over to complete the victory.
This is Deccan's second win and it lifts them off the bottom of the table. The most heartening aspect of the win was that their batting clicked as a unit, unlike the several games in which it was left to one batsman to carry the innings.