Chennai Super Kings 157 for 4 (Gaikwad 38, Rayudu 32, Harshal 2-25) beat Royal Challengers Bangalore 156 for 6 (Padikkal 70, Kohli 53, Bravo 3-24, Thakur 2-29) by six wickets

Seven straight matches, seven straight losses in the United Arab Emirates. All while setting a target. Royal Challengers Bangalore find themselves in a mid-season rut, and it threatens to undo their good work in the first half of IPL 2021.

If it was a ridiculous batting meltdown in the first game of the restart where they were shot out for 92, they were hampered by a middle-order meltdown here. From 111 for 0 in 13 overs, they ended with a below-par 156 for 6, and then let the loss in momentum boil over on the field.

By the time their spinners tried to make a fist of it, Chennai Super Kings were well on their way as Ruturaj Gaikwad and Faf du Plessis had put on 71 risk-free runs in 8.2 overs. While they fell in successive overs to spin, Ambati Rayudu muscled a quick-fire 32 before MS Dhoni and Suresh Raina saw them home without much stress.

The win not only took Super Kings to the top of the points table but also in a great position to make the playoffs, after the disappointment of 2020 on these very shores.

Kohli and Padikkal's mixed bag
Virat Kohli came out looking to attack from ball one, and hit two back-to-back boundaries off Deepak Chahar, who couldn't find much swing with the new ball. Josh Hazlewood, his new-ball partner, hit the hard lengths and got the ball to skid, making shot-making more challenging in comparison. But Devdutt Padikkal found a way out early on to match Kohli's aggression as the pair took Royal Challengers to 55 for 0 in six overs. While it wasn't the most destructive powerplay, Kohli's willingness to attack relentlessly stood out.

However, the next six overs proved to be the momentum changer. Royal Challengers managed just 49 in this period as pace off the ball made scoring difficult, especially for Padikkal as he often lost shape in trying to hit out. Padikkal was the first to bring up his half-century, off 35 balls in the 12th over. Kohli followed him by raising his off 36 balls in the 13th. But there was a feeling that Royal Challengers may have miscalculated slightly.

Thakur and Bravo trigger slowdown
AB de Villers came in at No. 3 upon Kohli's dismissal in the 14th over to Dwayne Bravo, and found run-scoring difficult. Of course, there was the added pressure of somewhat covering for lost ground. This is when Shardul Thakur came into his own, bowling his variations of cross-seam deliveries into the pitch along with his trademark knuckleballs, to take out both de Villiers and Padikkal off consecutive deliveries. de Villiers was foxed by the length as he sliced one into the covers, while Padikkal played the wrong shot, caught at short third attempting to ramp a slower bouncer that hardly rose. Thakur, who was shovelled out of the ground by Kohli for a huge six in his first over, finished with more than respectable figures of 2 for 29 off his four overs.

Bravo, meanwhile, kept denying Glenn Maxwell, who struggled for timing, and eventually snuffed him out by bowling slow and away from his hitting arc. The mastery over his slower variations was all too evident as he finished with 3 for 24. In between, Chahar, who was off-colour early on, delivered a four-run penultimate over, in which he removed debutant Tim David. When the final ball was bowled, the Royal Challengers were running on fumes.

Gaikwad, du Plessis' calmness
While Kohli and Padikkal looked to muscle the ball upfront, Gaikwad exuded sage-like calm, choosing to caress the ball. du Plessis, at the other end, was a tad more adventurous, but it made for an excellent combination upfront as the Super Kings raced to 59 for 0 in six, four more than Royal Challengers managed but without taking half the risk. Gaikwad then took the attack to spin, welcoming legspinner Wanindu Hasaranga with a ferocious sweep for four and finishing that over by lofting him down the ground for a straight six. Navdeep Saini, who replaced Kyle Jamieson, then got some tap from du Plessis, who muscled him for two fours and a six to round off the powerplay. And even though both of them fell off consecutive overs, Super Kings had the game well in control.

Rayudu shows he's alright
A swollen elbow from a 149kph Adam Milne thunderbolt three nights ago saw Rayudu retiring hurt. But the man who turned up on Friday night was pain-free and in the mood to have some fun, quickly using his sound game against spin to negate Yuzvendra Chahal's threat. Once that was negated, victory was more or less a mere formality. Rayudu raced to 32, finding good company in Moeen Ali as the pair wiped out any signs of pressure there may have been on Super Kings because of the double strike. The retired pair of Dhoni and Raina, who would've benefitted from time in the middle, then polished off the chase without much fuss.

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo