Chennai Super Kings 151 for 4 (Watson 50, du Plessis 50) beat Delhi Capitals 147 for 9 (Pant 38, Bravo 2-19, Jadeja 2-23) by six wickets
It will be Chennai Super Kings v Mumbai Indians again. The two most successful franchises in the IPL will fight it out for the trophy once again after MS Dhoni’s men produced a clinical performance in a must-win game.
Prior to this game, Harbhahjan had bowled 22 of his 36 overs in the Poweprlay this season. And he’s been effective, picking up eight wickets at an economy rate of 7.80. It was strange not to see him open the bowling but as soon as there were two left-handers at the crease – one of them was Colin Munro, whose strike rate against spin this season is 66 (188 against pace) – it was time.
The offspinner eventually took out Shikhar Dhawan, which was even more useful considering he has been Capitals’ most prolific batsman of the season. At the end of a good shift – 4-0-31-2 – the 38-year old felt happy he could still keep up with the younger spinners in the IPL.
DJ’s in da house
Capitals were 54 for 2 after eight overs. And since they had Shreyas Iyer at the crease, with plenty of firepower to follow, ESPNcriicnfo’s forecaster had them reaching a total of 168 at that point.
But you know that thing with Dhoni and data, don’t you? You know, who wins that battle.
Capitals could make only 26 runs off the next 30 balls they faced, losing three wickets. And they were suddenly 80 for 5.
A major reason for the slide was Dwayne Bravo, who finished with figures of 4-0-19-2. He is often criticised for being too predictable; going slower balls all the time. But here, he got his variations just right. Not simply changes of pace but of length. His first wicket came off a bouncer that Axar Patel guided to deep third man. And his second was a yorker at 139 kph, from round the wicket, taking out Keemo Paul’s leg stump. He signed off by bowling an 18th over that cost only three runs.
Pant bats like Dhoni
He was 17 off 14. He saw wickets fall around him but he wasn’t panicking. And because of that, the captain of the team that was on top, was anxious. Rishabh Pant was batting like Dhoni and Dhoni knew how dangerous that can be.
It seemed like time to celebrate though when the left-hander mis-hit a Tahir googly all the way to long-off. Deepak Chahar was there, right on the edge of the boundary, but as he took the catch, he carelessly went over the rope. Fielders in the IPL have been pulling off those catches like it was routine and considering this was the wicket that could break the game – at a time when Pant was only 24 off 18 – that was a big mistake.
Dhoni immediately shook his head, instincts over-riding his captain cool persona, and yanked Chahar out and replaced him with du Plessis.
Pant couldn’t bat through the innings, finishing with 38 off 25 balls, and with the big-hitter gone and only Nos. 9, 10 and 11 to face the eight balls still left in the innings, Forecaster suggested Capitals would only make 134.
But out came Trent Boult, Amit Mishra and Ishant Sharma and they contributed 22 runs together, with two fours and as many sixes, to drag them up to 147.
The CSK top order finally steps up
It had been a problem all through the tournament. They’d been slow. Capitals made as many runs in one over – 16 – as Super Kings did in their first four. They’d lost wickets – the worst of all the teams – and here du Plessis and Watson began with a mix-up so bad that both of them were running to the same end. Twice.
Also, they were playing on a pitch where it was best to get a lot of runs in the Powerplay because it would get slower (and tougher) as the game went on. That’s easy to do when you have confidence coming into a must-win game, but when you don’t, the only way forward is conserving wickets and hoping for the best. That’s probably why 27 for 0 after five overs might well be in line with Super Kings’ plans. The final over of the Powerplay went for 15 runs as du Plessis hit Ishant for a hat-trick of boundaries and began the surge that took him to a half-century off only 37 balls. Watson took a little longer to bring out the big shots and so well were they batting together that as early as the 10th over, Forecaster was predicting a Super Kings victory at 98%.