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Raina storm hits Centurion

A fan enjoys Raina's assault, and relishes the face-off between Warne and Dhoni, but is disappointed not to witness a close finish

John van der Westhuizen
Yusuf Pathan's on top of the world after dismissing Matthew Hayden, Chennai Super Kings v Rajasthan Royals, IPL, 22nd match, Centurion, April 30, 2009

Yusuf Pathan dismissed Matthew Hayden with his first ball but had an (overdue) off day with the bat  •  Associated Press

Team supported
I have supported the Deccan Chargers since the IPL started. I felt with Herschelle Gibbs, Adam Gilchrist, Andrew Symonds and Shahid Afridi in their ranks, anything under 400 was gettable! I was proven very, very wrong, and was ridiculed for 12 months. This year things are very different and despite today's loss, I still fancy Deccan to lift the trophy.
Key performer
Suresh Raina - After Chennai stuttered early on, Raina set about assuredly dismantling the Rajasthan attack. His 98 off 55 balls proved to be the backbone of the innings, and he also weighed in with a wicket and two catches, including one to finish the match. A welcome return to last year's IPL form.
One thing I'd have changed about the match
More fruitful innings, particularly from Yusuf Pathan and Graeme Smith, would have gone a long way to satisfying the Rajasthan-supporting crowd.
Key face-off
For me it was Shane Warne v MS Dhoni - not just Warne bowling to Dhoni but skipper v skipper. Dhoni as last year's losing captain in the final will have wanted revenge. Incidentally, Chennai also lost both league games against the Royals last year .Two great cricketers, two great cricketing brains. It was always going to be interesting. In the end, and not for the first time in the tournament, Rajasthan's batting let them down badly, and this time Pathan could not save them.
The big screen offered a minimal amount of celeb face-time, but the glitterati were definitely out and about. The usual array of Bollywood stars and their entourages were to be seen, and a number of Titans players, past and present, turned up at their old hunting ground. Most notable of these was the former tearaway Proteas quick, Rudi Bryson, who was in great spirits and mingled with a few fans in between the two fixtures.
Wow moment
The local crowd would have realised a tough game for Rajasthan was in the pipeline when Smith chased a wide one and was caught early on. Another big moment was Pathan rattling Matthew Hayden's stumps with the first ball of the second over. Turned out it wasn't big enough to take the wind out of Chennai's sails though.
Cheerleader factor
Both sets of cheerleaders were very easy on the eye, enjoyed their teams' successes with passion, and were difficult to separate in terms of the overall product they offered. In the end Rajasthan get the nod, based on ever-encroaching hemlines. Also known in cheerleading competitions as "The TKO".
Crowd meter
Supersport Park is considered by many South Africans as the top ground for "cheap-seat spectators". As always, the atmosphere was great, good play was applauded from all sides, and a lot of fun was had. It was a Rajasthan-biased crowd, though Albie Morkel turning out for the Chennai gold. The organisers will have been very happy with the large turnout.
With the usual chart-topping commercial - and at times also Indian - music, the crowd were kept going during breaks. Pockets of students who had adopted one side or the other regularly broke out into war cries that can only be described as beer-fuelled and thoroughly entertaining. The young lady chosen for a potential career in Bollywood in the ongoing IPL reality competition can only be described as gorgeous. Despite my lack of information on other chosen participants, she will have to be among the bookies' early favourite to win, unless the judges are blind.
Banner of the Day
"Get umbrellas out, weather forecast predicts Raina"
Marks out of 10
I would rate it 7.5, with points being deducted for lack of a close finish, underperformance from local favourite Smith, and the fact that Morkel only faced one ball in the Chennai innings - though in trademark fashion he did club it for four.

John van der Westhuizen is a Markets and Sales Specialist at a global media and information support company. He is also a die-hard cricket fan, a slow-medium seam bowler past his prime, father to the future of South African cricket, Luke van der Westhuizen, currently three years old, and working on a straight-arm doosra. You can read his blog here.