Delhi Capitals 175 for 3 (Shaw 64, Pant 37*, Dhawan 35, Chawla 2-33) beat Chennai Super Kings 131 for 7 (du Plessis 43, Rabada 3-26, Nortje 2-21) by 44 runs
Three nights ago, they had settled for protecting their net run rate after falling too far behind the asking rate in a chase of 217 against the Rajasthan Royals. Today the Chennai Super Kings were never in the reckoning in a chase of 176.
They were up against the Delhi Capitals, who possess one of the better bowling attacks in the competition, but hobbling to 47 for 3 at the 10-over mark said far more about the inadequacies in the Super Kings' batting. Ambati Rayudu, their match-winner in their season-opener against the Mumbai Indians, was out with a hamstring injury, but it will still concern the Super Kings that they weren't able to put together a line-up that could chase a target that, while testing, needed them to score less than nine an over.
Axar Patel bowled tight lines in a rare spell - for this season at least - of spin with the new ball, and took out the Super Kings' one real source of top-order muscle, Shane Watson. Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje also proved difficult to get away, finding a bit of early movement before shifting to the hard lengths. But without Rayudu - and without Suresh Raina - and with the team management not promoting Sam Curran up the order to break up a monotonously right-handed top six, there was little power or invention in the Super Kings line-up to challenge the Capitals' bowlers.
A better batting line-up could have put more pressure on the Capitals bowling, and possibly shown up a somewhat conservative batting performance too. After a half-century from Prithvi Shaw had powered them to 88 for no loss at the 10-over mark, the Capitals never really found their top gear, and failed to clear 180 despite losing only three wickets.
Shaw ensures early momentum for Capitals
Shaw and Shikhar Dhawan are a right-left pair but they're similar batsmen otherwise. They both relish width, score a lot of runs square on the off side, and aren't quite as fluent when the bowling is at their body and cramping them for room. The Super Kings - who chose to chase despite the fact that teams batting first had won six of the first seven matches - bowled pace right through the Powerplay, and succeeded more often in cramping Dhawan for room than Shaw.
Shaw ended the Powerplay with 27 off 23 balls, and Dhawan with 7 off 13. The Super Kings could have had Shaw early had they spotted an inside-edge to the keeper off Deepak Chahar in the first over of the game, but they didn't and no one appealed.
The spinners came on as soon as the fields could spread, and Piyush Chawla and Ravindra Jadeja went for 28 and 24 apiece in their first two overs. Shaw was severe on the legspin of Chawla, crashing him through the covers and then backward of point when offered shortish balls with a bit of width in his first over, and then using his feet to twice loft him over the covers in his second. Jadeja, bowling a touch too close to the hitting arcs of both batsmen, was slog-swept once each by both batsmen and driven to the cover boundary by Dhawan.
A subdued second half
Chawla came back through the second half of his spell, pegging the Capitals back with the wickets of both openers. The quicker ball did the trick both times; pinning Dhawan in front while trying to reverse-sweep, and beating Shaw for pace when he skipped out of his crease too early.
At 103 for 2 in the 13th over, the Capitals were still calling all the shots with Rishabh Pant and Shreyas Iyer at the crease and Marcus Stoinis and Shimron Hetmyer still to come, but the Super Kings bowlers kept them in check with some tight bowling on a pitch that was just beginning to slow down.
Chahar and Josh Hazlewood - who came in for his IPL debut in place of Lungi Ngidi - slanted the ball across Pant and away from his favoured hitting arc, and even though the left-hander put away a few marginal errors in line and length, the tactic ensured he didn't fully break loose. There was an excellent 19th over as well from Curran, which only went for four runs, as Iyer struggled to put away the left-armer who went around the wicket and cramped him for room while bowling his cutters into the pitch.
A boundary each from Pant and Stoinis off Hazlewood, and four leg byes via an uncharacteristic MS Dhoni lapse behind the stumps, gave the Capitals 14 in their final over. They had only made 87 in their last 10 overs.
A chase that never was
The first two matches of the season had brought M Vijay 22 runs off 29 balls. There was little fluency here as well, as Kagiso Rabada - bowling Test-match lengths with a hint of outswing and two slips in place - began the second innings with five dots and a quiet tuck off the legs to fine leg.
Then Axar came on specifically to target Watson. Before this game, their head-to-head, over seven meetings, was 38 balls, 42 runs, and five dismissals. Watson survived Axar's first over, had a chance dropped at square leg off Nortje in the next over, launched Avesh Khan for a big six over wide long-on in the over after that, before failing to survive Axar's second over. The ball was a typical Axar delivery - just short of a length, skidding on with the angle from left-arm around, designed to cramp the right-hander for room. Watson pulled it with more power than most batsmen may have managed, but picked out the fielder at deep midwicket.
The Super Kings lost their second wicket off the last ball of the Powerplay, Vijay failing to make a clean connection against a hard-length ball from Nortje, and miscuing a catch to midwicket.
The equation at that point was 142 from 14 overs. It was theoretically still achievable, but the Super Kings' victory chances faded quickly, with no boundaries coming in the next 5.2 overs thanks to a mixture of decent bowling, a lack of urgency from the batsmen, and an inability to pull off the big hits when they tried them. Soon the Super Kings innings began to resemble an open net session, and a 54-run fourth-wicket stand between Faf du Plessis and Kedar Jadhav merely served to fill the time that remained until the overs ran out.
Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo