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Match Analysis

The curious case of the Chepauk pitch

Chennai Super Kings' fifth home game stood out by dint of the MA Chidambaram Stadium surface enabling better stroke-making than it has all season. Here's why

The season opener at Chepauk was played on a dubious slow turner, with the spinners taking ten out of the 13 wickets to fall in a match that produced only 141 runs. Both the captains, MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli , expressed their displeasure after the low-scorer last month. "I never expected the wicket to play how it actually played," Dhoni said during the post-match presentation. "It was too slow."
The track continued to be slow in the following three games here as well, making stroke-making difficult. On Tuesday night, though, it was a whole different story. ESPNcricinfo looks at how it played in Chennai Super Kings' fifth home fixture on Tuesday.

Spin to win? Not necessarily

In the first four matches in Chennai, the ball turned viciously, particularly in the first match where Royal Challengers Bangalore were rolled over for 70. On Tuesday, the ball did not turn as much and, instead, slid on to the bat.
David Warner and Sunrisers Hyderabad's new No. 3 Manish Pandey took advantage of it as Sunrisers hit 54 for 1 in the Powerplay - the joint-highest score in the first six overs at Chepauk this season.
Harbhajan Singh, who had earlier sent back Jonny Bairstow caught behind with one that didn't turn, then had Warner stumped with one that pitched on middle and broke away, but that was an aberration. Ravindra Jadeja and Imran Tahir could not find turn off the pitch and, in all, Super Kings' spin attack was taken for 110 runs in 12 overs.
Dew then set in later in the night and made things more difficult for Sunrisers' spinners. While Shakib Al Hasan, who was only playing his second game of the season, got away with none for 27 in his four overs, Rashid Khan leaked 44 in his four overs while picking up the solitary wicket of Suresh Raina.
Rashid got some fizz off the surface when he hit the middle of the pitch with his wrong'uns and sliders, but didn't quite threaten the edges enough with turn. In any case, Rashid isn't a big turner of the ball, but Tuesday's pitch was more friendly to the batsmen.

Okay, was there something for the seamers?

Yes, both Deepak Chahar and Bhuvneshwar Kumar swung the new ball and muzzled the batsmen in the early exchanges. Bhuvneshwar posed a greater threat by extracting extra bounce in the first over of the chase - a maiden to Shane Watson. Once the ball grew old, though, the batsmen could hit through the line, as Warner, Pandey, and later Watson showed.

So, what has changed?

Ahead of the first four matches and during practice sessions, the groundstaff had shielded the playing square from getting too dry under the blazing Chennai sun by setting up a tent-like structure. The inhospitable heat made way for a welcome drizzle on the eve of the Super Kings-Sunrisers clash, ensuring the conditions weren't as dry as it had been over the past few games here.
Watson, who plundered 96 off 53 balls, conceded that this pitch was more favourable to stroke-making, and a much quicker outfield meant he could hit through the line with greater freedom. It wasn't too dissimilar to the Pune pitch (Super Kings' home base last year), where Watson had flourished.
In Pune, in IPL 2018, Watson had struck 264 runs in five innings at an average of 52.80 and strike rate of 168.15. Before Tuesday, he had managed just 56 runs in four innings at an average of 14 and strike rate of 100.
"The conditions this year is drier compared to the previous years I've played in the IPL," Watson explained. "Especially coming from the Big Bash [League] where the pitches aren't that dry and the PSL [Pakistan Super League] in Dubai and then Karachi. So, the wickets here have been drier and the ball has turned a bit more and there has been inconsistent pace and bounce in the wicket, and I just lost my batting rhythm."

Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo