Thirty-seven minutes of mayhem: How CSK unravelled

MS Dhoni's men lost five wickets in the powerplay and all but crashed out of the playoffs

Saurabh Somani
IPL 2020 began with these two teams. Mumbai Indians were everyone's favourites, and then the Chennai Super Kings, like they do, upended the script. Since then, there's been a reversion to the mean. Mumbai haven't lost a single match in regular time: six wins in eight games, one defeat in a Super Over, one defeat in a double Super Over. The Super Kings are the opposite: two wins in their next nine games, qualification hopes hanging by a thread - a thread that needs other results to go their way too. It's going to take 37 minutes to kill all those possibilities.
Trent Boult to Ruturaj Gaikwad. Boult is on target. Gaikwad is one of three changes for the Super Kings as they look for the "spark" that MS Dhoni said was missing. It's an important game for him, because he's getting a chance at the top of the order, where he's got all his runs for India A. He looked slightly unsure in the middle order, thrown into the deep end in an unfamiliar role in the most competitive, intense T20 tournament in the world.
Boult brings the first ball in, but then starts bending it away. Beaten, beaten, defensive push into the offside. Take your time Ruturaj, this could be your chance.
It was the set-up. Three balls away, next one curving in. Gaikwad is late. The ball has hit pad. Has it taken an inside edge? Is it going down leg? Boult is pleading for an lbw. The umpire doesn't listen. Kieron Pollard does. Boult and Pollard are on the money and Gaikwad's day is over. Ambati Rayudu comes in and has to deal with a 'perfume ball' - so called because you can smell it under your nose - first up.
Oh hello, what do we have here? Jasprit Bumrah has taken the new ball just once for Mumbai in this IPL, against the Rajasthan Royals. He got Steven Smith out in the first over then. Pollard, leading in place of an injured Rohit Sharma, has decided to go to Bumrah due to what happened in Boult's first over.
"Jasprit, we weren't thinking about using with the new ball but after that over from Trent and getting that early wicket… you know Rayudu has batted well against us the last couple of times and over the last couple of years. So we just decided to go for him, and it worked for us," Pollard will say after the match.
"We were thinking of having Trent open the bowling and maybe go either Nathan (Coulter-Nile) or a spinner. But, seeing a couple of balls swing and getting that early wicket, having Rayudu come in. I just thought of using our most experienced bowler and one of our better bowlers against their main batsman."
Rayudu won the Super Kings the opening match of IPL 2020 with 71 off 48. He has a couple of 40s too, one in 2018 and one in 2019.
It takes two minutes and two short balls from Bumrah to prove Pollard's hunch spectacularly right. The first one is back of a length, the second is banged in harder. It starts to home in just below Rayudu's left shoulder like a heat-seeking missile. It gets too big, too fast, and is too good for him. There's nowhere near enough room to pull, but Rayudu's committed to the shot. The ball is committed to tangling him up into a top-edge that floats into Quinton de Kock's gloves.
Pollard and Bumrah exchange smiles while he's walking back to bowl the next thunderbolt. The plan has worked. Not just the plan to bowl Bumrah first up, but to target Rayudu with the short stuff.
The new man is N Jagadeesan. Can he show the spark Dhoni wanted? Not tonight. You feel for him and Gaikwad. They've put in the hard yards in domestic cricket. They've got their opportunity on the big stage. But they're up against a pair of bowlers who are too hot to handle for most batsmen. Jagadeesan's swishing at his first ball, feet not moving - they've not had time to move yet, to get the rhythm going yet - and it's an outside edge to first slip.
The Super Kings are under the pump but they have the two men best suited for a rebuilding job in Faf du Plessis and Dhoni. Both like to take their time. Both are capable of big hits later. Both have the evenness of temperament to ride out the storm. But not tonight. Not tonight.
It's an uncharacteristic du Plessis stroke. It's a characteristic Boult strike. He's been doing it regularly for Mumbai upfront. Bowling coach and countryman Shane Bond will say Boult had promised "he was going to peak for this game". Some peak. Swinging full and across du Plessis, whose normally sure footwork has gone AWOL. Maybe it's the wickets. Maybe it's the reality of the Super Kings' season. Maybe it's the bowling. Or all three. A waft and another catch behind.
The Super Kings have lost more wickets than they have runs on the board: 3 for 4.
The dugout looks more shocked than glum. Even in the midst of their worst season ever, they hadn't quite expected their worst start ever to a game.
"We're pretty stunned really... It was tough watching," coach Stephen Fleming will say after the match. He'll repeat 'it was tough' three times in the same answer.
It's only an 18-run partnership but after what went before, the fifth-wicket stand between Dhoni and Ravindra Jadeja is starting to feel like hope for the Super Kings. Bumrah's second over has been negotiated. Krunal Pandya replaced Boult. There could yet be a rearguard.
Turns out, Boult has not been taken off, he's merely switching ends. Jadeja's been in good ball-striking form this tournament. A counter-attack against Boult incoming? Not quite. Jadeja steps down the track, goes for the flat-batted pull. It only comes off the toe-end and into midwicket's hands.
The Super Kings are wrecked. They're 21 for 5 inside the powerplay. All the power and the play has been enforced by Mumbai's bowlers.
The one glimmer of hope is the captain. Dhoni has just hit Rahul Chahar for a straight six, right out of his 2011 playbook. Maybe he can salvage something?
No he can't.
The next ball's tossed up wider outside off, and Dhoni's going hard at this too. But it's not in his hitting arc. It's, in fact, in his edging arc. Caught behind. It's 30 for 6 and the dream is officially done for the Super Kings.
"It does hurt," Dhoni will say after the game. "I think all the players are hurting."


Mathematically, the Super Kings retain a ghost of a chance to make the playoffs. Practically, a spotless record of qualifying 10 times in 10 seasons is over. It doesn't take 37 minutes for a legacy to crumble. But these 37 minutes provided the hammer-blow soundtrack to one of the great records in the IPL ending.

Saurabh Somani is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo