Pune: Mahendra Singh Dhoni lived up to ‘The Finisher’ tag once again—there’s no question about that—the former Indian captain still remains very much in control of the situation wherever he plays.
His 20-run cameo and 43-run third wicket stand with Ambati Rayudu underlined the authority he displays whether from behind the wicket or from front of it—Dhoni was the toast at the Maharashtra Cricket Association (MCA) Stadium, which was dressed in a hue of yellow resplendent with the colours of Chennai Super Kings.
In this return match against table toppers Sunrisers Hyderabad after having beaten the Kane Williamson-led side by four runs in the away tie, much depended on Sunday’s game.
Chasing a challenging total of 179 for 4, Chennai made it look easy thanks to the pyrotechnics of openers Shane Watson and Ambati Rayudu, and even though the ‘home team’ rose to 16 points and second on the points table, a place in the play-off remain still wide open.
“We have one foot in the play-off arena, but the job is still unfinished so we have to be alert and express ourselves truly the way we have been doing this whole season,” coach Stephen Fleming gushed after Chennai scored eight-wicket win.
From now on, after Chennai’s eight win it would travesty of justice if the last week of the Indian Premier League throws up some shockers.
The way Dhoni showed his composure after Shikhar Dhawan gave a rollicking start to allow Sunrisers Hyderabad put up a big total, MSD’s minor blip during the Friday’s loss against Rajasthan Royals was truly
Under MSD Chennai superbly showed how a chase could be set up under frequently changing conditions. The super-bowl that is MCA Stadium was awash with bright sunlight—rather it was difficult to stand in the scorching sun. Add to that Dhawan and his skipper Williamson began finding the gaps. With 10 hits to the fence and three over the ropes Dhawan blasted 49-ball 79 after he lost his opening partner Alex Hales early on. When Williamson joined him in the middle the complexion of the match changed dramatically and as the two scored runs freely the sky above too changed its colours from blue to black and suddenly overcast conditions enveloped the arena.
The frequently changing weather conditions forced little change in approach, but the dip in temperatures must have helped Chennai somewhat. Surprisingly though, not a rain drop fell at the stadium in Gahunje while 27-km away in the city was lashed with hail and heavy showers that were clearly visible over the horizon.
Rayudu lets his bat talk
After a few low scores, Rayudu went in with intent to pursue 180 and gave a flying start-a match0-winning 100 not out.
His century was stuck in the 90s for a while and as the target became little trickier Dhoni took upon himself to ease some pressure—a four and a six did the job well—but the beauty of it was that he ensured Rayudu got his ton before the winning run was scored.
“He has his own style and he does that with authority. We knew the target was within our reach after the way Shane Watson and Rayudu blasted runs,” said Fleming referring to the 134-run first wicket stand. That was Rayudu’s maiden IPL ton that took him into the top five contenders for the Orange cap.
It all began well when the two scored 28 runs in the opening three overs before the pair opened their bladders to make good use of the remaining overs of powerplay as Chennai raced to 53 at the end of six overs. The tone was set and though two wickets fell, when Dhoni entered the field of play he took control thereon.
Chennai Super Kings 180 for 2 (Ambati Rayudu 100 not out, Shane Watson 57, Sandeep Sharma 1-36) beat Sunrisers Hyderabad 179 for 4 (Dhawan Dhawan 79, Kane Williamson 51, Shardul Thakur 2-32).