Faf du Plessis scored an unbeaten 29 to help the Chennai Super Kings narrowly beat the Kolkata Knight Riders by two runs in Chennai on Tuesday to go top of the table.
After posting a modest 134 runs on a difficult pitch at the MA Chidambaram Stadium, the hosts bowled and fielded like they were possessed, with plenty of spirit and gumption, and restricted the visitors to 132 for 9.
KKR were pushed on the backfoot right at the start of their chase when Ishwar Pandey found the outside edge of Gautam Gambhir’s willow. Robin Uthappa and Manish Pandey put the innings back on the rails with a 51-run stand. The second-wicket pair made good use of the pace of the CSK quick bowlers, picking up eight boundaries and a six in five overs.
But the introduction of spin in the sixth over – in the form of R Ashwin – derailed the chase, and a lot of it had to do with poor shot-selection from the KKR batsmen. The CSK off-spinner struck with his first delivery when Uthappa (39 from 17 balls, 6 fours, 1 six) pulled a short delivery but McCullum converted the half-chance and took a low catch.
The off-spinner struck for a second time with the first delivery of his second over when Manish Pandey’s slog sweep landed in the hands of Dwayne Bravo at midwicket.
The match was always billed as a contest between the spin bowlers on the two sides, and CSK’s spinners were certainly far ahead on the day. The eight overs bowled by Ashwin (2 for 5), Jadeja (3-0-11-0) and Raina (3-0-12-0) had 26 dot deliveries and one boundary.
Bravo finished the most successful bowler of the evening, picking up three wickets, while Pandey and Ashish Nehra (who reclaimed the Purple Cap) picked up a wicket apiece.
Earlier in the evening, the Chennai Super Kings, who were put in to bat, didn’t capitalise on a blazing start provided by their opening pair of Dwayne Smith and Brendon McCullum. The CSK openers took full toll of the pace of Pat Cummins and Umesh Yadav, hitting five boundaries and two sixes as CSK raced to 42 in 4.3 overs.
Leg-spinner Piyush Chawla broke that partnership when he landed a flipper that McCullum didn’t pick and was adjudged to be in front of the stumps when he was struck on the pad. The Kiwi batsman made 19 from 14 balls, studded with three boundaries and a six.
MS Dhoni gloved an attempted pull in the twelfth over, while Dwayne Bravo’s chip landed in the hands of long off in the thirteenth over, as CSK were reduced to 88-5. The rescue effort came from Du Plessis and Ravindra Jadeja, who added 36 runs in 5.5 overs before the latter was deceived in the air by Hogg and had his stumps disturbed.
Du Plessis remained unbeaten on a run-a-ball 29 as the hosts finished their twenty overs at 134 for 6. The CSK innings had only 12 boundaries and three sixes; there were only four boundaries hit in the back half of the innings.