Saurabh Somani is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo
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Chennai Super Kings 178 for 4 (Gaikwad 72, Rayudu 38, Jadeja 31*, Chakravarthy 2-20, Cummins 2-31) beat Kolkata Knight Riders 172 for 5 (Rana 87, Gill 26, Ngidi 2-34) by six wickets
A twisting and turning contest between the Kolkata Knight Riders and the Chennai Super Kings came down to Ravindra Jadeja facing down Kamlesh Nagarkoti with seven runs needed from the last two balls, in an over that had begun with just ten needed. An ice-cool Jadeja swatted two length balls between long-on and midwicket for two sixes to raise victory for the Super Kings. His unbeaten 31 off 11 balls almost put in the shade a magnificent innings by Ruturaj Gaikwad, who hit 72 off 53 for a second consecutive fifty in IPL 2020.
While the win came too late to help the Super Kings qualify, it has seriously dented the Knight Riders' chances, who can still make it but will need other results to go their way. However, it also means the Mumbai Indians are now assured of a spot in the playoffs.
The Knight Riders had put up a competitive 172 for 5 driven by an opening batsman's fifty and a cameo at the end of their own. Nitish Rana began slowly but then finished with a flurry of boundaries to make 87 off 61, but it needed Dinesh Karthik's 21 not out off ten to push them past 170, which looked like a total that would stretch the Super Kings.
In reply, Gaikwad was all timing and elegance as the Super Kings began solidly. His shot-making, particularly off Lockie Ferguson, was the best on display on the night, even accounting for Jadeja's finish. Gaikwad's second-wicket partnership with an aggressive Ambati Rayudu (38 off 20) set the base for the Super Kings to eventually surge over the line despite a wobble. They went from 118 for 1 to 140 for 4, and visions of their earlier defeat to the Knight Riders, when they had failed to chase a similar total from a similar position of strength, would have swirled.
However, in that game, Jadeja had come in at No. 7 and when the chase was much steeper. This time, he came in at No. 6 and had the time to take the game to the finish.
Rana stops, then starts
Shubman Gill continued the free-flowing avatar that he has unlocked in the last couple of games, beginning with a boundary first ball. At the other end, Rana struggled to find the gaps against the pacers, counter-balancing Gill's aggression with his slow start. Rana was on 6 off 16 at one point inside the powerplay, while Gill was blazing away on 23 off 13, but the introduction of spin in the form of Mitchell Santner unlocked Rana. He hit two fours and a six in the sixth over, to give his innings a bit of a surge.
After the powerplay was done, Rana couldn't find the boundary as regularly but wasn't as bogged down as he had been at the start of the innings. The Knight Riders went with the tactic of maximising their chances at the death, and, therefore, kept Eoin Morgan and Dinesh Karthik for the back end of the innings. Consequently, Sunil Narine came out at No. 3 and Rinku Singh - playing his first game of IPL 2020 - at No. 4.
Rana kept going more steadily than in a free-stroking fashion, although he was markedly more aggressive against spinners than pacers.
The Knight Riders were 106 for 3 in 15 overs, a rather low run rate for the number of wickets down, and especially low given that they had sent in Narine and Singh early to get some momentum. Rana, already past fifty then, opened up against Karn Sharma, hitting three consecutive sixes that set the ball rolling for a productive last five overs that fetched 66.
Karthik walked in when Rana fell to Lungi Ngidi - one of the three changes the Super Kings had made in this game - and immediately got into his stride, with his trademark busyness at the crease. Karthik's boundary-hitting ensured the Knight Riders had a good finish. However, the sluggishness in the middle meant they still had a total they would have considered a mite under-par, especially because they had brought in Singh for this game in place of a bowler in Prasidh Krishan and lengthened their batting.
Gaikwad-Watson start, Gaikwad-Rayudu cruise
The Super Kings made a steady more than spectacular start, with Watson not able find runs between his boundary shots. Gaikwad was much more assured, particularly against Ferguson, whose pace and accuracy had troubled everyone he had come up against till now. In Ferguson's first over, Gaikwad pulled and straight drove the bowler for boundaries, and was quickly outscoring Watson.
When Watson fell, trying to go big but caught at long-on, Rayudu joined Gaikwad for the partnership that pushed the Super Kings into the ascendancy. Rayudu took a shine to Rana - the Knight Riders' sixth bowler on the day - carting him for three fours in what would be his only over, and then punished Nagarkoti too. In between, Gaikwad was in command against Ferguson, and had reached his second successive fifty. Rayudu was out to Pat Cummins to break a 68-run stand that had come in just 6.1 overs and left the Super Kings needing 55 off 38 to win.
The stutter and the finish
MS Dhoni fell to Varun Chakravarthy for the second time in IPL 2020, bowled once again, and the Knight Riders began applying a late choke as only 23 runs came from overs 15 to 18. Not only that, the Super Kings also lost Gaikwad, bowled by Cummins after an excellent knock. That left Jadeja and Sam Curran 30 to get from the last two overs.
Ferguson was given the responsibility of the 19th over, and what looked to be a game in the Knight Riders' control changed with two legal deliveries left in the over. A full toss above waist height was pulled to deep-square leg for a couple by Jadeja and the free hit off the next ball was smashed over deep-square leg. For good measure, Jadeja got a thick outside edge to third man off the final ball, and from needing 23 off 8, the equation came to 10 off 6. Curran's fluency didn't materialise but he did manage to turn the strike over to Jadeja with three balls left. There was a dot to follow, but the last two balls proved to be enough for Jadeja to seal the win.
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