Chennai Super Kings 220 for 3 (du Plessis 95, Gaikwad 64) beat Kolkata Knight Riders 202 (Cummins 66*, Russell 54, Chahar 4-29, Ngidi 3-28) by 18 runs
They had a much-maligned opener come back to form spectacularly. They had their other opener power to 95 not out. They had a total of 220 for 3, and then they had the opposition 31 for 5 inside the powerplay. Then the Chennai Super Kings ran into not just Andre Russell at his ball-smashing best, but Pat Cummins morphing into Dre 2.0, as the Kolkata Knight Riders kept hammering away at the target despite the seeming hopelessness of their cause. The Super Kings had to contend with a match they thought they had sewn up bursting open once again. But, in the end, they got past the finish line, winning by 18 runs in the final over.
Russell hit a 21-ball fifty, coming in at five down in 5.2 overs. Cummins walked in when Russell was out, saw Dinesh Karthik fall too, and then reeled off a 23-ball fifty. But in the end, the Super Kings had put up too many runs and taken too many wickets up front, as a valiant chase ended with the Knight Riders 202 all out in 19.1 overs. Cummins was unconquered on 66 and the last two wickets were run-outs with Cummins trying to retain strike.
The Wankhede Stadium's status as a batting haven was restored in some style, as a succession of batters teed off against the bowling, in a match in which 26 sixes were hit. Deepak Chahar's powerplay heroics, which left the Knight Riders in tatters, almost became a footnote, as did his excellent figures of 4 for 29 - until he effected those two run-outs at the end.
The Super Kings were driven to their total by fifties from Ruturaj Gaikwad (64 off 42) and Faf du Plessis (95* off 60) and, at the innings break, they must have thought they had enough even if the dew arrived. By the last over of the Knight Riders' powerplay, they would have thought it was just a matter of time, and the nerdier ones among them would have been calculating the expected net run-rate boost. Few could have foreseen the sort of blistering comeback that the Knight Riders mounted, but, eventually, the Super Kings had collectively done just enough.
Gaikwad repays the faith
He had come into the game with scores of 5, 5 and 10, with calls outside the team growing ever more insistent that the Super Kings ought to bench him. But the team kept the faith in Gaikwad, and he repaid that spectacularly. He began in the second over, taking Pat Cummins for four and six to get Super Kings flying early. They continued to soar, with both du Plessis and Gaikwad depositing the ball where they pleased for much of their partnership. Gaikwad was particularly severe on the pace bowlers, taking all of Cummins, Russell, Prasidh Krishna and the returning Kamlesh Nagarkoti for plenty. At the other end, du Plessis balanced that nicely by punishing Varun Chakravarthy. Sunil Narine, back for this game after recovering from a niggle, emerged relatively unscathed, taking 1 for 34 in four overs.
Both openers were rattling along at pace, but it was Gaikwad who reached his half-century first, off 33 balls. He was out in the 13th over, after a 115-run stand, and his innings had enough flowing drives and pulls to signal a thumping return to form.
Meanwhile, du Plessis carried on, his own half-century raised off 35 balls, and continuing to go at the same pace till the end of the innings. The Super Kings gambled by sending MS Dhoni ahead of Ravindra Jadeja and Sam Curran, and though the captain found the edge of the bat as often as the middle, he did get some good hits in and the Super Kings ended up with a massive total.
He has made it a habit to have the new ball doing things, and Chahar tore through the Knight Riders' top order in the powerplay. Their scores looked like a pincode, with five successive single-digit efforts. Chahar struck in each of his first three overs, and his last wicket was that of Narine. The move to send Narine in at No. 5 ahead of Karthik and Russell not coming off. Chahar stuck to his method and reaped the rewards: bowl tight without offering too much room, get the ball to swerve, and cash in on the batter's mistakes.
Russell's thunder, Cummins' blitz
Russell's hit three of his first four balls for four, four and six off Lungi Ngidi, and seemed in a thunderous mood right from the start. He had walked into a hopeless situation, but also one tailor-made for him in a way, where all he needed to do was focus on bat hitting ball. Hard. He did that in vintage Russell style, clattering bowlers disdainfully. Karthik, who was going at near ten runs an over, seemed sluggish in comparison to Russell. The equation had appeared beyond anyone, but the way Russell took off, and with Karthik also finding his timing, it was a lot closer than it looked.
Russell's fall was as anti-climactic as his innings was thrilling. Having got to fifty off with his sixth six - each one hit hard enough to launch the ball into orbit - he faced up to Sam Curran in the 12th over and left a length ball on leg stump that he thought was going down. He had moved too far across though and misjudged it, as the delivery took out leg stump, leaving him in disbelief, even as the Super Kings rejoiced.
However, there was still one final blow to land from the Knight Riders, and it came via Cummins. Hitting sixes as effortlessly as Russell, Cummins kept the impossible chase alive. Curran, who had struck the most decisive blow of the match, watched an over disappear for 30 runs as Cummins swung hard. He kept running out of partners though, until it came to 20 needed off the final over with Cummins on strike. Three good blows would have done it, but for that, Cummins needed to keep strike, and when Prasidh Krishna stumbled in crossing for a first run and was a bit slow to turn around for the second, it was all over for the Knight Riders.
Saurabh Somani is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo