Chennai Super Kings, thanks to a blitz from Ravindra Jadeja, staged another late recovery to chase down a target in the IPL, on Saturday against Kolkata Knight Riders. That target of 120 was not a big one, though, and had they failed to knock it off, there would have been many questions around why they had chosen to open their innings with R Ashwin.
While Super Kings have been searching for right combination at the top all through this tournament, with M Vijay struggling and S Anirudha falling for a duck when given a chance, promoting Ashwin - who has a top score of 11 in the IPL - hardly seemed the answer. He managed to get away a couple of neat fours through the leg side - flicked and swept - but could not give Super Kings the quick runs they wanted of him on the sluggish track. That, according to Michael Hussey, was the idea behind sending him out to open.
"I think Ashwin's role was to try and get us off to a quick start, look to take advantage of the first six overs and he had a licence to tee off. He hit a couple of good boundaries but, as it can happen in T20 cricket, you can get out anytime," Hussey told the IPL site. "I think there was pressure all the way through, because it was a difficult surface to bat on. It was almost a case of if you play properly, try and work the ones and twos, it can be very difficult to score; but if you try and tee off it might just work."
Given the nature of the track, Hussey said, Super Kings were not complacent about the target. "Kolkata is always a tough place to play; the pitch is always slow and low with less bounce, and we knew even 120 or 130 could be a defendable total here," he said. "And I think the bowlers are becoming a lot smarter, so the scores over the whole competition have been a little bit lower than normal. But thankfully some late hitting from 'Sir' Jadeja got us over the line again."
Hussey batted through to the 17th over, scoring 40 off 51 - the slowest score of 40 or more overall in the IPL - and when he got out, Super Kings needed 31 off 19. Jadeja slammed 36 off 14 to take them home with five balls to spare. "Obviously you needed one person to try and bat through the innings and have the other guy try and hit around," Hussey said. "But I guess it was easier when I got out. I was struggling to hit the ball very far and thankfully Jadeja and Dwayne Bravo finished the job for us. We have got a lot of power hitters in our line-up and we always have it in the back of our mind that they could get us home."
Knight Riders' offspinning pair of Sunil Narine and Sachithra Senanayake, who conceded 38 runs between them in eight overs, were expectedly hard to get away Hussey said: "You can pick both of them, but it is still difficult to play them. They know where they are landing the ball and the Kolkata surface is sort of helpful for them as well. It is very difficult to play them here."