MS Dhoni has "found his best again" in a 27-run win over the Delhi Capitals at the Chepauk Stadium here, thereby taking another step towards solidifying Chennai Super Kings' playoff berth in the 2023 IPL, said former South Africa captain Graeme Smith. CSK's balanced batting saw them score 167 runs with six players hitting 20 or more runs, including a blistering 20 from MS Dhoni (9b, 1x4, 2x6) on Wednesday.
Ruturaj Gaikwad, Ajinkya Rahane, Shivam Dube, Ambati Rayudu, and Ravindra Jadeja joined Dhoni in the 20-run club, with Dube's 25 runs being the most (12b, 3x6). Delhi had a poor start, losing their Top-3 with just 25 runs on board. Rilee Rossouw put up a resilient 35 runs (37b, 2x4, 1x6) but simply couldn't score fast enough to reach the target.
Dhoni got to step onto the pitch at Chepauk to a vociferous reception from the CSK home fans, where he delivered 20 runs in just 9 balls. Former South Africa captain Graeme Smith recognized the incredible pressure under which Dhoni plays and said on JioCinema, "The pressure on him every time he goes to bat is enormous. The roars every time he gets on strike, and the crowd goes berserk. It's incredible to watch, this season, he has found his best again. Khaleel was bowling really well until that over against MS, he kind of read the play and had him under pressure. Once he hit that one down the ground, you could just see Khaleel, he didn't think he'd get it going. That put him under pressure. 20 off 9, strike rate of over 220, just the impetus he and Jadeja gave that inning, that 160 total created pressure."
This win allows Chennai to improve their tally of wins on the season to seven, trailing the reigning champions and current table-topper Gujarat Titans by just a point. Former India cricketer Parthiv Patel on JioCinema laid out what CSK could be aiming for to solidify their qualification, "We had discussed that a win today would almost guarantee qualification for the playoffs and they can focus on trying to finish one or two. Finish one or two will ensure they play a match in Chennai, so we could see Chennai play in the finals once again. We know how they have played here. Look at their batting tonight, Shivam Dube led all scorers with 25 runs, with others getting around 20 to 22 and we still saw a total of 167. The way they fielded, bowled, everything looks to be going fine. That's why the team can aim for finishing first or second."
Delhi Capitals sit last on the IPL table with only four wins in 11 games, basically spelling the end for their chances of qualification. Though it is still possible, Graeme Smith believes their season is all but wrapped up, "I think that they are gone. As a team, they had a little bit of momentum, they needed to keep winning to have a chance. I just think there are too many other teams that have the opportunity to get to 16 points, so I think Delhi is in big trouble in this tournament in what has been a very disappointing campaign for them."