It's the first of the IPL 2021 playoffs, Qualifier 1, between Delhi Capitals and Chennai Super Kings, in Dubai. Capitals must start as the favourites, not only because they topped the league table after winning ten of their 14 games, but also because Super Kings come into this game on the back of three losses in a row. But, well, history. Super Kings know how to win big matches, and that should make this a good contest.
And if you're in the USA, you can watch the match live on ESPN+ both in English and in Hindi.
So did the Curran selection work?
Tom Curran's primary job is with the ball, and he picked up 3 for 29. He may have bowled the final over and MS Dhoni may have won the match for the Super Kings in that final over, but it was a pretty good over for most part. Sometimes you can bowl pretty good overs and go for plenty.
So, all in all, you'd say Curran did the job asked of him with the ball.
But the selection was about more than just the individual selected. The Capitals strengthened their bowling at the cost of batting depth, and after they lost their fourth wicket in the 11th over, Rishabh Pant and Shimron Hetmyer were forced to build the initial part of their respective innings with a fair amount of caution.
In the end, this may well have cost the Capitals the chance of setting a target that was beyond CSK's reach, or one that would have forced CSK into taking a lot more risks a lot earlier.
But then again, you could look at how the two experienced spinners went, and you could say this proved that they needed the extra seamer for this game.
So, well, no easy answers. And the game went down to the final over. One team won, one team lost.
I'll end this live report on that note, then. A terrific Qualifier, a terrific start to the playoffs. Let's hope the three matches that remain are just as good or even better. Plenty of content still to go up from this game, so do watch out for that. Good night!
Mahendra. Singh. Dhoni.
Wow. There have been times over the last two seasons when he's looked an utter shadow of himself, but tonight he's shown us a glimpse of the old MS Dhoni. He muscled that vintage six in the 19th over, and in the 20th, with 13 needed from five balls, he received a short, wide slower ball from Curran that he slapped just beyond the reach of the jumping extra-cover fielder. Then he swung hard at another slower ball, and inside-edged it between keeper and short fine leg. You need that luck sometimes, and the Capitals enjoyed plenty during their innings.
Then he shouldered arms when Curran missed his line with the wide yorker, bringing the equation down to 4 from 3.
Could he finish with one hit? You bet he could. A pretty good short ball from Curran, not offering Dhoni too much room to free his arms, but he jumps, gets on top of the bounce, and swivels violently through his hips to pull along the ground and find the gap between deep backward square leg and deep midwicket.
CSK win with two balls to spare. Dhoni finishes unbeaten on 18 off 6. CSK are in another IPL final. Check your calendar. It might just be 2010 all over again.
That man Curran again
Well, well. Rabada doesn't get the 20th over. Tom Curran does. And he bowls a short one from around the wicket that cramps Moeen Ali for room on the pull. He's hitting towards the longer boundary, and he doesn't manage to clear the man at deep square leg. Curran has 3 for 16 now, from 3.1 overs, and CSK need 13 off 5. Oh, and Curran is on a hat-trick.
CSK need 13 off 6
Avesh had tied Moeen down in his previous over with wide yorkers, forcing him to steer the ball to third man, who was fielding on the longer boundary. But the margin for error isn't great, and the ball after Gaikwad's wicket is a low full-toss that Moeen does very well to slice in the air but well wide of third man - he made a palpable effort not to open his bat face while hitting it, to ensure it went where it did.
Then Dhoni comes on strike, and swings and misses at a slower short ball. It's down to 19 off eight balls.
And then Avesh bowls a back-of-a-length ball just outside off, and Dhoni absolutely hammers a pull over the midwicket boundary. Dubai erupts in noise, it's now 13 off 7.
The last ball of the over is a slower ball wide of off stump, and Dhoni looks to go leg side and swings and misses.
It comes down to 13 off 6. What a game!
At the start of the 19th, the Capitals had a tough decision to make about who between Rabada and Avesh would bowl the 19th and who would bowl the 20th. They went with Avesh for the 19th, and he gets a wicket with the first ball. It's just about full enough to deny Gaikwad the elevation he needs while going over the leg side, and he picks out deep midwicket to depart for 70 off 50.
CSK need 24 off 11, and in walks... MS Dhoni, ahead of Ravindra Jadeja and Dwayne Bravo. Does he still have it in him?
CSK need 24 off 12
Gaikwad finds the boundary twice in Nortje's final over. The first is a half-volley, and he drives it past mid-off, but the second is a terrific shot. He steps out, and the bowler sees him coming and bowls it wide of off stump. He reaches out, meets it on the full, and opens his bat face to slice it beyond the reach of backward point.
CSK need 35 off 18
Two good overs for the Capitals, from Nortje and Avesh, particularly the latter, who had given away 20 in his previous over, but came back and forced both Gaikwad and Moeen Ali to hit towards the longer, well-protected boundary. Just one boundary in each of the 16th and 17th overs, and the squeeze is on. This is shaping up to be a terrific first Qualifier.
Iyer's fielding continues to hurt CSK
CSK have lost 3 for 6 in no time now, and Iyer has been involved in all three wickets. This time it's a run-out. Iyer rushed in off the boundary and to his right from long-on to intercept a pull from Gaikwad, and then he fires a flat, hard throw to Rabada who's by the stumps at the bowler's end. The batters attempt a second run, and Rabada does very well to collect the throw, which bounces a little awkwardly as it gets to him, and flicks off the bails to find Rayudu short of his ground.
CSK end the 15th over at 121 for 4. They need 52 off the last 30 balls, and suddenly, this could be anyone's game.
Boundary-line balancing act, and a batting-order shuffle
Shreyas Iyer, running to his right from long-on, and Axar Patel, running to his left from deep midwicket, almost collide while going for the same catch, after Uthappa miscues a big hit off Tom Curran. Axar manages to step out of Iyer's way, and Iyer manages to take the catch, flick the ball in the air, step over the line, and then back onto the field, and then complete the catch.
Uthappa falls for 63 off 44, and CSK promote Shardul Thakur to No. 4.
Before he gets to face a ball, though, Gaikwad completes his fifty, off 37 balls.
And then Thakur gets on strike, and holes out off the last ball of Curran's over. Iyer grabs another catch, far simpler this time, at long-on. CSK now need 56 from 36 with seven wickets in hand. Curran has 2 for 16 in three overs, but for a lot of that time the batters were content to knock him around for singles.
Ambati Rayudu comes out at No. 5. MS Dhoni is holding back his left-handers, Moeen Ali and Ravindra Jadeja, for some reason.
Uthappa hits R Ashwin for consecutive fours: a fine reverse-sweep, and then back over his head after stepping out. The 13th over ends with CSK 111 for 1, and with the second-wicket pair having put on 108 in 74 balls. CSK need 62 off 42 now.
Ashwin ends that over with an average of exactly 100.00 against right-hand batters this season, plus an economy rate of 8.21. Against left-handers the corresponding numbers are 34.66 and 6.30. He's bowled two overs for 19 today, and he hasn't bowled a single ball to a left-hander yet.
Ruturaj Gaikwad hits Axar Patel for a six over long-on, just beyond the fielder's reach, and then chips him back over his head for a four next ball. He starts the 11th over on 27 off 23, and ends it on 40 off 28.
It's all of a piece with how he's batted through this season, of course.
The Capitals have pulled CSK's run rate back a little, with four boundary-free overs after that expensive final over of the powerplay, but it felt like a bit of a stalemate, with Gaikwad and Uthappa happy to take the ones and twos without risking their wickets. Uthappa reaches his half-century off the final ball of the 10th over, getting there in 35 balls. CSK 81 for 1 in 10; they need 92 from 60 balls.
What did Axar Patel offer at No. 4?
Uthappa turns back the clock
If you picture Robin Uthappa, what do you picture? I would wager that you picture him hitting in the V. Avesh Khan offers up four full or fullish balls to him in the final over of the powerplay, and he hits them down the ground for two fours and two sixes. CSK take 20 off the over, and move to 59 for 1 off six.
That over has lifted CSK's winning chances from 43% to 63%, according to ESPNcricinfo's Forecaster.
It didn't even strike me until now, but Uthappa's been promoted ahead of Moeen Ali, even though it's meant CSK have a right-right combination at the crease.
CSK stay in touch with the required rate
Ruturaj Gaikwad and Robin Uthappa have put on 31 since du Plessis' dismissal, and CSK are 34 for 1 in four overs. There's been some attractive strokeplay from both players, the highlight a six from Gaikwad off Kagiso Rabada - he charged down the pitch, making plenty of room, and used that room to free his arms and flat-bat the ball straight back over the bowler's head.
It's 147kph, it's a length ball angled into the stumps, and it doesn't do a whole lot in the air or off the pitch. It's 147kph, though, and it gets through Faf du Plessis as he looks to work it square, playing slightly across the line. CSK are 3 for 1 in 0.4 overs.
A terrific final over
A mixture of yorkers and wide yorkers, all more or less on target, and Shardul Thakur concedes just eight runs off the 20th over. And four of those runs came off a bottom-edge to the fine leg boundary.
Pant scrambles two off the final ball to finish on 51* off 35 balls, and the Capitals end with 172 for 5. That's not a bad total at all in a playoffs game, even though there were a few quiet overs almost by necessity after Prithvi Shaw's dismissal, thanks to the Capitals' lack of batting depth. Will that come back to hurt them? We will see soon.
Including that edged four in the last over, the Capitals scored a total of 41 runs off 31 balls when they were not in control. That gave them an NIC strike rate of 132.25, which remains the season's best for any team in an innings.
Bravo ends Hetmyer's impressive knock
A short ball angling across the left-hander and climbing steeply. It's a difficult ball to control while pulling, but Hetmyer had hit a similar ball for a terrific flat-bat four between deep midwicket and long-on a couple of overs ago.
Now, however, a similar ball produces a miscue that's caught in the deep. Hetmyer falls for 37 off 24, and the Capitals are 163 for 5 in 18.4 overs.
The death-overs push
Hetmyer and Pant pick up 13 and 12 off the 17th and 18th overs, bowled by Dwayne Bravo and Hazlewood. The Capitals are 153 for 4 in 18.
By the way, the Capitals have a strike rate of 139.13 when their batters haven't been in control today. Thirty-two runs off 23 balls, with three fours and two sixes. That not-in-control strike rate is the best that any team has managed in an innings this season, which is a measure of the luck the Capitals' batters have enjoyed today.
A lucky six
Shardul Thakur beats Pant for lack of pace with a slower-ball full-toss, and Pant ends up swinging far too early at it. His bottom hand comes off the handle, though, and that ensures he gets good bat-speed through his one-handed swish. He isn't in control of the shot at all, but it carries a long way over the long-on boundary. The Capitals have had a bit of luck go their way today - Shaw's first three boundaries all came off the edge.
After the 16th over, the Capitals are 128 for 4.
Two super shots
In the 14th and 15th overs, Shimron Hetmyer hits a short-arm pick-up pull for six, off Moeen Ali, and an open-faced squeeze between short third and backward point, off Dwayne Bravo. Those, however, have been the only boundaries the Capitals have hit since Prithvi Shaw's dismissal. They are now 114 for 4 in 15 overs.
4, 7, 6
That's how much the Capitals have scored off the 11th, 12th and 13th over. Pant and Hetmyer have been content to take singles and twos to the deep fielders, but you can't blame them too much, given the shortness of the Capitals' batting order.
After 13 overs, Capitals are 96 for 4.
Gambhir: CSK desperately need to push Rayudu to No. 3
Huge moment, this. Second ball of the 11th over, Shaw looks to chip Jadeja over extra-cover, but possibly ends up chipping the ball straighter than he intends. Faf du Plessis completes a good catch sprinting to his left from long-off, and Shaw is out for 60 off 34. The timing of the wicket is massive too, because Shimron Hetmyer has now joined Rishabh Pant with 58 balls left in the innings, and Tom Curran, R Ashwin and Kagiso Rabada the only ones with reasonable batting ability left in the dugout.
Capitals 80 for 4 in 10.2 overs.
The Axar experiment doesn't quite come off
Axar looks to go after Moeen Ali, tries to pull one that's shorter than a good length but not necessarily short, and ends up holing out to long-on. He falls for 10 off 11, and the Capitals are 77 for 3 in 9.4 overs.
Gambhir: Would have picked Steven Smith instead of Tom Curran
Jadeja's second over goes for 10, but it's not the left-hander laying into him, but Prithvi Shaw, who cuts him away for four to bring up a 27-ball fifty, and then sweeps him for another four two balls later.
At the end of the ninth over, the Capitals are 74 for 2, with Shaw batting on 57 off 30.
With Ripal Patel out and Tom Curran in, the Capitals could be seen as having compromised on their batting today. They've kind of worked around that now, with Axar Patel sent in at No. 4 to push Rishabh Pant and Shimron Hetmyer a couple of slots lower.
It's also a bit of a match-up thing. Pant, Hetmyer and Axar are all left-handers, and CSK will have a difficult job of how and when to use their left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja. Jadeja bowled the first full over after Axar's entry, the seventh of the innings, and the next over was bowled by Moeen Ali, the offspinner. Now the ninth over has begun, and Jadeja is continuing his spell. CSK know they can't hold him back too much with Pant and Hetmyer to come.
Delhi Capitals are 64 for 2 in eight overs.
Hazlewood strikes again
You can't take your eyes off this game. Josh Hazlewood is keeping CSK in it, and he picks up his second with a cross-seam ball. It's not a great ball, in terms of line, but it misbehaves just enough off the pitch, as cross-seam balls tend to. It seems to be drifting into Shreyas Iyer's pads, and he looks to flick it away, but the ball stops on him a little, and he's too early into the stroke. A leading edge pops up high, and Ruturaj Gaikwad takes the catch running to his right from cover point.
The Capitals are 50 for 2 in 5.3 overs.
Six, six, drop
Prithvi Shaw is absolutely flying off the blocks in Dubai. He hits two sixes off Shardul Thakur's first five balls on the night - the first an almost straight-bat shovel-pull over midwicket - but Thakur seems to have his revenge with a slower bouncer outside off stump. Shaw looks to slash it away over backward point, but all he manages is a top-edge, and MS Dhoni, diving to his right, puts down a difficult one-glove chance.
The Capitals are 50 for 1 in five overs, and Shaw has moved to 42 off 18.
It's all happening
After those two edged boundaries off Hazlewood, Shaw gets one more, off the inside edge, off the bowling of Deepak Chahar in the third over. Then he picks up three more fours in the over, one a majestic back-foot punch off a pretty decent ball, and the others off gifts from the bowler.
Shikhar Dhawan then runs out of his crease and pumps Hazlewood back over his head for four in the next over, to move the Capitals to 36 for 0 in 3.1 overs. Just when CSK fans may have begun panicking, however, Hazlewood retorts with a back-of-a-length ball, angling across the left-hander, and gets a hint of seam movement and extra bounce to find the outside edge as he looks to steer to third man.
An eventful first few overs, and the Capitals are 36 for 1 in 3.2.
Can Curran come good today?
In 13 IPL games, Tom Curran's taken 11 wickets while going at 11.13 per over. Those aren't flattering figures at all, and he's playing a potentially key role today, given that he'll probably bat at No. 7, behind Axar Patel, and likely be used to fill in overs in the middle overs when either Axar or R Ashwin are facing unfavourable match-ups. How he goes may well have a significant impact on the result of tonight's game.
His entry, though, is still a while away. Prithvi Shaw has just picked up a four and a six off a pair of top-edged pulls/hooks off Josh Hazlewood, and the Capitals are 15 for no loss in two overs.
Unchanged CSK bowl, Tom Curran comes in for Capitals
MS Dhoni expects conditions in Dubai to get better for batting as the match progresses. "It stops a bit initially, and then gets better, it gets more one-paced."
No changes for the Super Kings.
Rishabh Pant said he would have liked to bowl first too. "Slightly nervous, but it's part and parcel of whenever I step on the field in cricket."
One change for the Capitals. Ripal Patel misses out, and Tom Curran comes in. Another seamer, with a bit of hitting ability down the order, but it feels like the Capitals' batting will lack a bit of depth today. Marcus Stoinis is still not fit enough to take the field for them.
Chennai Super Kings: 1 Ruturaj Gaikwad, 2 Faf du Plessis, 3 Moeen Ali, 4 Ambati Rayudu, 5 Robin Uthappa, 6 MS Dhoni (capt & wk), 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 Dwayne Bravo, 9 Shardul Thakur, 10 Deepak Chahar, 11 Josh Hazlewood.
Which winning streak will end today?
Delhi Capitals have beaten Chennai Super Kings in each of their last four meetings. The Super Kings, however, have come out on top on both previous occasions when they met Delhi in the IPL playoffs. An M Vijay century led them to a massive win in the second Qualifier back in 2012 , and seven years later, in another second qualifier, half-centuries from Shane Watson and Faf du Plessis powered the team in yellow home to a six-wicket win in Visakhapatnam,
Can the Capitals break their playoffs jinx against the Super Kings, and extend their recent dominance over MS Dhoni's men? Or will the Super Kings end their recent run of losses and bring the A-game that they're renowned for bringing to the pointy end of this tournament? We'll find out very soon, with the toss in around 20 minutes' time.