Chennai Super Kings left Rajasthan Royals high and dry on a wet night at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium.
The four-wicket victory improved its chances for a play-off skirmish in the Indian Premier League and pushed Rajasthan in a tight corner with matches against Pune Warriors and Mumbai Indians to go. The win took Chennai to the fourth slot with 13 points and Rajasthan slipped to sixth with 12.
From the toss to rain interruptions, everything worked in favour of Chennai Super Kings. A sparkling cover drive by Rahul Dravid may have appeared ominous but Chennai called the shots thanks to Ben Hilfenahus producing just the stuff that makes him a bowler to be watched.
Not to be left behind, Shaun Tait too came up with sizzling pace to rattle the Chennai batsmen but Rajasthan went down fighting. Albie Morkel and S. Anirudha finished the match in style as Chennai made heavy weather of making 127.
Hilfenhaus bowled a gem of a spell. It was a commanding performance by a bowler who had come to grief when he last bowled in this competition, conceding 14 runs off three balls.
The last three balls by Hilfenhaus against Mumbai Indians had cost Chennai the match. Obviously he wanted to make amends and he did it in style with a parsimonious spell on Thursday night.
Even as rain forced stoppages, Hilfenhaus, exploiting the conditions to the hilt, did not ease his grip on the batsmen. He induced a desperate slog from Rahul Dravid and then bowled a splendid over to man-in-form Shane Watson.
To have shackled a batsman like Watson spoke of the nagging length that Hilfenhaus bowled. It was a remarkable performance by Hilfenhaus who seamed the ball craftily and even extracted bounce that left the batsmen bewildered.
Not many bowlers escape punishment in this format but Hilfenhaus was a glorious exception. Thrice he left Watson groping and it was an embarrassment for Watson, who held the key for Rajasthan's progress in the tournament.
But his agony was put to end by a brilliant diving catch at deep point by R. Ashwin to give Hilfenhaus a much-deserved reward. It was a blow that impacted Rajasthan's position in the contest.
Dravid and Watson had fallen to ambitious shots and Ajinkya Rahane followed soon as Rajasthan slumped against Yomahesh, who got rid of Stuart Binny, who looked good in his cameo of 27. Watson and Rahane perishing cheaply left the Rajasthan innings in a spot and it never really recovered.
The Rajasthan camp had clearly concentrated on aggressive tactics to try and beat the uncertainty caused by the frequent rain interruptions but failed to challenge the opposition with a target that could put pressure.
The early loss of Murali Vijay notwithstanding, Chennai batsmen kept the game under control to complement the efforts of their bowlers. Shaun Tait generated scorching pace even as Chennai Super Kings struggled to stay on course.
Suresh Raina got out to an outrageous stroke, Dwayne Bravo played a tame shot, Michael Hussey displayed poor judgment. M.S. Dhoni and Ravindra Jadeja were no different as Rajasthan battled hard to stay in the reckoning.
But Watson conceding 18 runs in the 18th over after Pankaj Singh had given 17 off the preceding one let Rajasthan down.
Rajasthan Royals: R. Dravid c Hussey b Hilfenhaus 4 (9b, 1x4), A. Rahane c Ashwin b Yomahesh 17 (22b, 2x4), S. Watson c Ashwin b Hilfenhaus 5 (11b, 1x4), S. Binny c Raina b Yomahesh 27 (18b, 3x4, 1x6), B. Hodge lbw b Ashwin 33 (28b, 2x4, 1x6), J. Botha b Jadeja 12 (20b), A. Menaria (not out) 6 (5b, 1x4), D. Yagnik (not out) 10 (7b, 2x4); Extras (lb-6, w-6): 12, Total (for six wkts. in 20 overs): 126.
Fall of wickets: 1-6 (Dravid), 2-28 (Watson), 3-40 (Rahane), 4-65 (Binny), 5-97 (Botha), 6-115 (Hodge).
Chennai Super Kings bowling: Morkel 3-0-19-0, Hilfenhaus 4-1-8-2, Yomahesh 4-0-21-2, Bravo 3-0-38-0, Jadeja 4-0-21-1, Ashwin 2-0-13-1.
Chennai Super Kings: M. Hussey (run out) 19 (32b, 2x4), M. Vijay b Watson 0 (5b), S. Raina c Rahane b Pankaj 23 (17b, 5x4), D. Bravo c Binny b Trivedi 10 (15b), M.S. Dhoni c Rahane b Trivedi 10 (16b, 1x4), R. Jadeja c Botha b Pankaj 16 (13b, 1x4, 1x6), A. Morkel (not out) 18 (6b, 1x4, 2x6), S. Anirudha (not out) 18 (6b, 1x4, 2x6); Extras (w-12, nb-1): 13; Total (for six wkts. in 18.1 overs): 127.
Fall of wickets: 1-1 (Vijay) 2-36 (Raina), 3-57 (Bravo), 4-60 (Hussey), 5-80 (Dhoni), 6-84 (Jadeja),
Rajasthan Royals bowling: Watson 3-0-32-1, Pankaj 4-0-34-2, Tait 3.1-0-20-0, Botha 4-0-23-0, Trivedi 4-0-18-2.
Man-of-the-match: Ben Hilfenhaus.
Keywords: Indian Premier League