Little would one expect from a team that went four, or practically 5 down, for just 24 inside the powerplay. But Chennai Super Kings (CSK) dared and eventually scripted a memorable four-wicket win against defending champions Mumbai Indians (MI) at the Dubai International Stadium on Sunday. Ruturaj Gaikwad's unbeaten 88 and Dwayne Bravo's blitz followed by Deepak Chahar early strikes helped Chennai record their sixth win in Indian Premier League (IPL) 2021 and subsequently take the top spot in the points table.
Back in UAE, Mumbai tick powerplay box
One of the crucial factors behind Mumbai Indians' incredible run to a fifth IPL title was their bowling in the powerplay with pacer Trent Boult ruling the roost with his 16 wickets. But in their first seven matches in IPL 2021, Mumbai managed to pick only four wickets with the new ball at an average of 82, which only placed them ahead of Sunrisers Hyderabad. Boult picked two of those wickets, at 57, with an economy rate of 57.
On returning to the same venue where they lifted their unprecedented fifth, Mumbai returned to their best in the powerplay, leaving Chennai reeling with four wickets down for just 24 runs. Boult dismissed Faf du Plessis in the first over while Adam Milne, fresh from his impressive show at The Hundred, removed Moeen Ali in the second, both for a duck. Boult struck for the second time, dismissing Suresh Raina while his compatriot wrapped it up with the dismissal of captain MS Dhoni. In between the final two dismissals, Ambati Rayudu copped a blow on his elbow and walked out retired hurt, implying Chennai were effectively five down at the end of the first six overs.
The last time CSK lost four or more wickets in the powerplay was also against Mumbai, in the UAE (at Sharjah), going 5 down for 25.
Gaikwad vs Bumrah
With CSK's ship sinking, it was on the shoulders of young Gaikwad that Chennai rested their faith. An innings of real maturity, his 58-ball 88 helped Chennai bounce back from 7 for three, or 7 for 4 to be precise, to 156 for six. But the real talking point about his knock was his battle against Jasprit Bumrah, in the death overs.
There has been arguably no one better than Bumrah with the old ball. Only a few of the best T20 batters have managed to negate this threat in a classy manner. With Gaikwad left with the lower order, this was the battle that could decide CSK's fate and it was the youngster that emerged on top. Anticipating a wider and fuller delivery from Bumrah, he launched it over extra cover for a six. Bumrah dished out another slower ball, this time an overpitched one, and Gaikwad lofted it over cover for a boundary. In the final delivery, Gaikwad went down on one knee and swept the lower full toss over backward square leg for a six.
Deepak Chahar's gentle reminder
When India announced its 15-man squad for the T20 World Cup next month, one of the surprising omissions was Deepak Chahar, who was placed among the reserves. In 14 T20Is, Chahar picked 20 wickets at 19.30 and in IPL, no bowler has taken as many powerplay wickets (29) like him in the last two seasons. But with India expecting more spin-friendly pitches in the UAE, there was little to accommodate another swing bowler and a powerplay specialist after Bhuvneshwar Kumar.
Despite all, Chahar on Sunday sent out a gentle reminder with yet another impressive show with the new ball. Quinton de Kock started off Mumbai's chance on a positive note, but was beaten by the hint of shape towards off-stump and was dismissed lbw. Returning for his second over, Chahar surprised Anmolpreet Singh with a perfect knuckleball that landed on a fullish length and rattled against the off stump.
Dhoni's tactical moves
When Dwayne Bravo was brought into the attack, against Ishan Kishan, Dhoni stationed a short cover and extra-cover, a rather rare sight in a T20 game. Kishan survived the first ball, fuller and outside off, intending to for the cover drive but found the thick inside edge to send the ball to the fine leg fence. Bravo enticed him with a similar deliver and this time Ishan went for the lofted drive that landed straight into the hands of perfectly-stationed Suresh Raina at short cover.
With 72 required in the final seven overs, the most crucial decision was to bring back Josh Hazlewood into the attack who was smacked for 26 runs in two overs in the powerplay. The stand-in skipper once again looked threatening, hoping to pull off a similar heist as he did in their previous meeting four and a half months back. But the Aussie dished out a perfect delivery in his first ball, a sharp in-nipper that skidded low and struck plumb on Pollard's back knee.
The dismissal effectively killed Mumbai's chances of a comeback. Krunal Pandya was run out a few deliveries later leaving Saurabh Tiwary as the lone batsman with the lower order.