After successfully folding Kolkata Knight Riders for 167, Chennai Super Kings raced away to 90 for the loss of just one wicket at the half-way mark of the innings. Shane Watson, like in his previous innings against Kings XI Punjab, looked in fluent touch alongside fellow batsman Ambati Rayudu, who as well was playing decently against the KKR pace attack. But 10 overs later, CSK lost four more wickets for just 67 runs, a phase when they began with nine wickets in hand, losing the match by 10 runs at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi. It was all down to a tactical move from captain Dinesh Karthik.
Chennai have shown a trend that their skipper MS Dhoni has followed over the years - take the chase deep, no matter the total, and target the weaker bowlers to finish off in style. The three-time winners have completed umpteen games in this fashion, but on Wednesday the plan failed as Karthik had reserved his best for the last.
Sunil Narine was KKR's key bowler in the contest. Much about his domination against CSK's top three batters were doing rounds ahead of the game. In 83 deliveries against Watson, Narine has dismissed him eight times for 88 runs. Faf du Plessis managed 15 runs in 23 balls against Narine while being dismissed once. Rayudu has scored 41 runs in 50 deliveries with three dismissals against him and Dhoni - 38 runs in 76 balls with two dismissals.
Despite the incredible numbers, Karthik waited until the 12 over to introduce Narine, who has so far bowled at least once in the powerplays in KKR's four IPL games this season. It indeed was a bold and aggressive move from the captain which could have backfired. Karthik relied entirely on his pace guns - Pat Cummins and the two youngsters to attack CSK in the first half. Narine's late introduction implied that the spinner would be carried all along into the slog overs alongside Andre Russell, and all came out well, working out just fine against a side which boasts arguably the most tactical mind in limited-overs cricket. Narine bowled overs 12, 14, 16 and 20 while Russell, as usual, completed 18 and 20 overs.
Narine conceded five runs in the first over and dismissed Watson in the first ball of his second over. He finished with 1 for 8 after his first two overs, both of which were outside the death overs. Varun Chakravarthy too was brought to attack with spin from both ends and that yielded the wicket of Dhoni.
Narine bowled two overs in the death, one of which was clobbered for 14 runs with Sam Curran hitting a six and four off consecutive balls. But went for just 10 runs in 19th over. He finished with 1 for 31 with seven dot balls and four boundaries. Russell, who bowled only two overs in the match, delivered four dot balls while conceding 18 runs. With no answer for the spin duo and Russell, Chennai choked completely, falling 10 runs short of the target despite being at a stage when the asking rate was 7.69 with nine wickets in hand.
"There are some key players for every team. Narine is one for us. Least we can do is back him. 2-3 poor games, doesn't matter," said Karthik after the victory that sent them to the top half of the table.
Earlier in the evening, Karthik had made another tactical move pertaining to Narine. Amid his struggles as an opener, KKR promoted Rahul Tripathi to open alongside Shubman Gill while Narine was held back for No.4. And the move worked with Narine coming in as a middle-order pinch hitter, scoring 17 off nine balls and bringing some momentum to the KKR scoring rate when it had dipped after entering the middle overs.