A little over a year ago, Stuart Binny sunk to his knees a despondent man as Chennai Super Kings (CSK), while nearly fluffing a regulation chase, whisked victory away from Rajasthan Royals’ (RR) fingernails, off the last ball.
On Monday, Rajasthan experienced similar excruciation as it witnessed a masterly chase by CSK, which did the needful by chasing down a target of 186 with five wickets in hand and a ball to spare. The visitor’s worst nemeses were its rudderless bowling and fidgety fielding.
Requiring 11 runs off the last over bowled by Shane Watson, an unflustered Dwayne Bravo signed off with a six and a couple of braces. Consequently, RR lost its first game after posting a 180-plus total; it also went down at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium for the fourth time in a row.
But before the nerve-wracking climax, it was the night of quality batsmanship from two Aussies — Watson and Michael Hussey. Even as the former became the first player to score a century in this year’s IPL, the latter continued to mesmerise with age-defying fitness and made-to-order batting.
CSK cast aside its firming up-a-base approach to a chase, launching a merciless attack. Notwithstanding M. Vijay’s early dismissal, the home side found comfort in Suresh Raina re-discovering his mojo.
During the 90-run association — filled with splendiferous shots and audacious running — between Hussey and Raina, never did the target seem out of bounds.
RR’s listless bowling was deservedly treated with contempt. Its faintest chance came in the 17th over when Hussey was run-out by a smart direct-hit by skipper Rahul Dravid. Two balls later, Ravindra Jadeja was consumed by a yorker. But there wasn’t to be any change to the final script.
Earlier, CSK began its fielding duties with an undemonstrative huddle.
For the compulsively superstitious CSK fan, Bravo’s bloomer in the first ball of the match — a Watson flick found its way through his legs at mid-wicket — must have hinted at bad luck.
Watson ensured it was interpreted exactly that way. His onslaught was every bit stately as it was bellicose.
Exploring the crease’s dimensions, Watson unfurled each of his signature strokes: the savage pummel over square leg; the scything drive from a low set-up; and the fiery drives over the bowler’s head.
When, on 24, he attempted to lift one over mid-off.
Mohit Sharma put in a vigorous back-pedal but couldn’t latch on. Despite Ajinkya Rahane and Dravid not clicking, Binny was Watson’s belligerent accomplice as RR pumped 54 runs in the last five overs.
CSK’s fielding, quite like its opponent’s, remained patchy.