A huge sigh of a relief that must be for Chennai Super Kings. Kolkata Knight Riders' lower order dished out an unexpected show in Mumbai, reminiscent of Rahul Tewatia's inspirational show in Sharjah last season. Alas, KKR fell 18 runs short of the target as Chennai Super Kings went top of the table by virtue of a superior NRR.
Ruturaj Gaikwad repays faith
"...if I had been in a previous team I would have been dropped a long time ago," Shane Watson had said with a laugh after his menacing 96 against Sunrisers Hyderabad back in IPL 2019. Watson struggled to time the ball on the slower tracks that season in IPL after a phenomenal outing in Big Bash and Pakistan Super League. Critics had begun questioning his place in the lineup, but captain MS Dhoni and coach Stephen Fleming had continued to back the veteran. "For them, in particular, to keep the faith in me and knowing that I had a really good innings in me it was great," he continued.
Backing their core players have been a key characteristic of the Chennai Super Kings for years. Gaikwad, who had scored three consecutive fifties in the fag-end of their forgettable outing in the UAE, failed to get going in his first three innings scoring only 5, 5, and 10. Critics had begun sharpening their knives, suggesting alternatives for CSK at the top of the lineup. But Fleming backed the youngster saying, "You know our philosophy; we give our players a good run. What they want to try and do is that the intent is there, the timing is great. We’ll continue to back him. We’ll make a decision to change at some point. We discuss it pretty hard but at the moment backing a good young player."
An evening later, Gaikwad fired 64 off 42, laced with six boundaries and four sixes, at a strike rate of 161.5 to help CSK get off to a promising start while also stitching a 115-run opening stand.
Chennai's final 10 over boom
The strategy of maintaining a batting depth until No.9 has allowed Chennai to go berserk with all the freedom despite a few conservative approaches. In the previous game, against Rajasthan Royals, four players combined to score at a run-a-ball rate while five others combined to score at 10.5 runs per over which powered CSK to 188 for 9. On Wednesday, an aggressive start from the openers, followed by an unbeaten 95 from Faf du Plessis and an above 200 strike rate hitting from MS Dhoni and Moeen Ali helped CSK amass a mighty 220 for three in 20 overs.
In the last three matches, CSK have amassed 138 (vs KKR), 106 (vs RR), and 117 (vs DC) in the last 10 overs. Overall, CSK's strike rate of 168.91 in the final 10 overs of the game is the highest this season with a boundary rate of 4.32 balls. In the death overs, it soars to 216.67, the only team to score at more than 10 runs an over this season during that phase and boundary rate of three balls.
Deepak Chahar records best PowerPlay figures in IPL
He finished with 3 for 13 in the PowerPlay against Punjab Kings earlier this week, a game that was played in the afternoon slot of a doubleheader day. But the presence of dew hurt him immensely in the next game as he was thrashed for 32 runs in three overs in the PowerPlay. Dhoni, however, backed Chahar to bowl three overs on Wednesday night after he picked Shubman Gill for a first-ball duck and Nitish Rana for just 9 in the second over. He returned for his third to continue to wreak havoc with the dismissals of Eoin Morgan and Sunil Narine, hence recording his best figures in the phase in IPL career. His 4 for 16 included three boundaries and six dot balls.
Lower-order's Tewatia-esque revival falls short
Chahar's best PowerPlay bowling figures left KKR wounded and lifeless at 31 for five in the sixth over. But a player of the name Rahul Tewatia had shown a few months back that it's not over until the last ball is delivered. Andre Russell, Dinesh Karthik and Pat Cummins then infused some life into the game with some spectacular and flurry of boundaries. The three combined to hit 160 runs off 80 balls at a strike rate of 200 with 11 boundaries and 14 sixes, giving a glimpse of what Tewatia had done against Kings XI Punjab in Sharjah last season, only to see their efforts go in vain as KKR fell 18 runs short of the target.